Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Go ahead, snack your way skinny!

Like many people, i'm a snacker - I snack when i'm nervous, I snack when i'm bored, I snack while i'm writing these blogs! And now I wonder: When did snacking get a bad name?? There are many benefits to snacking - and just to name a few:

1) Snacking curbs cravings. 
Many times when we crave sugar, junk food, <enter guilty pleasure here>, it is just because our blood sugar is low. The longer you go without food, the more likely you are to go for a donut or 12, instead of a more healthy choice.

2) Snacking keeps your metabolism up! 
Being hungry for extended period of time can send your body into 'starvation mode', and your metabolism will slow rapidly. Small and healthy snacking will keep your body working at its peak levels (= energy!).

3) Snacking keeps other meals reasonable in size (think: dinner). 
If you've had nothing to eat since lunch, by the time dinner rolls around you are most likely hungry, and more likely to eat a very large meal. Having regular snacks means you are more likely to be satisfied with a small and healthy dinner.

Is this you at the end of the day??

4) Snacking helps stabilize your mood and boosts brain power. 
Low blood sugar levels can not only lead to irritability, but affect your concentration, and of course, energy.

5) Snacking is just easier!
Snacks are, for the most part, easier to prepare and eat on the run, than full-on meals. Snacks can be easily fit into a busy schedule, and don't require as much time in the kitchen!

So, we've established that snacking - or grazing as i call it - is a good thing, but as I mentioned in my last post - what you are eating is important - all snacks are NOT created equal! 
And since i'm always getting the question "What should I eat??", here is a list of healthy, quick, and convenient snacks that are some of my favorites:

Learn to love these!
  • Hard-boiled eggs/Egg whites
    • Rich in protein, it is quite easy to throw a dozen of these in a pot and have them ready to go for the following days. However, make sure you are not eating too many, since the yoke is high in cholesterol and some saturated fat. I generally eat one egg (80 calories) + 4-5 egg whites (20 calories each).
  • Celery
    • This is for mindless snacking - celery provides no caloric value, so will not help you curb hunger. I snack on this when i'm bored-snacking :)
  • Nuts (almonds and walnuts)
    • I'm a bit discerning when it comes to nuts - some are better than others. Almonds are great, as are walnuts - just be sure that you are not eating too many! An almond is about 7 calories, while walnuts have about 14 calories. Since i'm not big on calorie-counting, I take one big handful and enjoy.

Ever seen these? Delicious!
  • Dried fruit
    • As noted with nuts above, not all dried fruit is preferable; pineapple rings, for example, are very high in sugar. However, dried apricots, apples, mangos, and raisins are excellent and are at the top of my list! Again, just be sure you are not consuming too much - they are not calorie-free and still contain sugar (albeit natural sugar! :)
  • Fruit
    • Some of the easiest snack food and packed with fiber! Take your pick, but i'm a huge fan of apples (great for fiber), bananas (help you feel full and are great for muscle soreness), frozen blueberries (vitamin C baby!) and kaki fruit (they are just my favorite!). Just don't always go for fruit, otherwise you will be eating quite a bit of (natural) sugar. I try to snack on fruit earlier in the day.
  • Olives
    • I love olives! They are easy to eat on the go, and full of energy-providing mono-saturated fats - absolutely great for losing and maintaining weight.  Eat 5-8 of them (depending on size) when you are on the go and need a boost!
  • Chicken breast
    • Prepare your own snacks -
      and avoid the temptation!
    • Yea, that's right - a chicken breast. Who ways chicken can't be a snack? It tastes good, its protein-rich, it's not that messy. I usually bake many chicken breasts all at once - on Sunday for example, when i'm preparing for the week -and then I just wrap it in tinfoil when i'm on the go. Season your chicken and it is a tasty little healthy snack!
  • Dark chocolate
    • I eat dark chocolate (at least 70%) every day. Every. Day. In small quantities that is. This keeps me from craving other sweets!
  • Air popped popcorn
    • Try to eat this without salt if possible - but in general, a couple cups of this is a great on the go snack - easy to eat while driving or in the office!

Snacks I am NOT a fan of:
  • Yogurt/cottage cheese/dairy-based snacks
    • As a lactose-intolerant individual, I cannot myself recommend dairy-based snacks. That said, yogurt and cottage cheese can be a healthy choice. However, for weight loss, I recommend to cut out ALL dairy. Sorry.
  • Peanut butter
    • Don't get me wrong, I love (LOVE) peanut butter, but it is calorie-dense, and screws with the digestive process a bit.
  • Anything pre-packaged
    • Think: 100-calorie packs, 'healthy' chips, cereal bars, etc. Usually high in additives, sugar, and/or some other kind of unhealthy something!
  • Shakes/protein bars
    • Most of these are high in sugar and full of additives. 

And there you have it - so snack away! 

Don't wait until you're too hungry to resist it all!

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