Wednesday, January 07, 2015

7 on the 7th: smart snacking

Happy New Year y'all! With the fresh start to the year, often people are making resolutions-- more of this, less of that, etc. I love to encourage people to be intentional with their lives and pursue healthier lifestyles-- in their spiritual walk, in their relationships, in their physical health, you name it.

In the fast paced world we live in, everything is about convenience. We want everything cheaper and quicker than before. I'm not bashing all shortcuts; however, if we are not careful we can become used to substituting quality for convenience. I see this most when it comes to the standard American diet-- packaged, processed food that quickly & cheaply gives us something to eat at the expense of our health.

I have heard from others, and even use some myself, many reasons for not prioritizing our diet-- busy schedules, lack of experience in the kitchen, aversions to certain foods, not wanting to feel deprived, etc. We place everything else at the top of our lists and leave what we eat at the bottom.

This year, and every year, I encourage you to prioritize you health by choosing healthier foods to eat.  Skip the unhealthy shortcuts. Make it a habit to plan meals & snacks each week. Spend more time in kitchen and less time in the doctor's office. Fill your grocery cart with more produce and less processed foods. Experiment with new ingredients and cooking methods. Say no to added sugar, lengthy ingredient lists, and nutrient empty foods that do not nourish your body. Say yes to real, whole foods.

Here are seven smart snack ideas and tips to fill and fuel your body:

1. Pair carbohydrate with protein and/or healthy fat. For example, if you have a piece of fruit, enjoy it with a handful of unsalted nuts or a piece of cheese. This slows down the digestion of the carbohydrate, which prevents a spike in your blood sugar. In doing so, you avoid the crash that follows.

2. Consider portions. Fresh fruit is delicious and provides vitamins and minerals. Fruit also provides carbohydrates which are broken down into glucose, or sugar, in our bodies. Aim for your fruit to be about the size of a tennis ball and try not to let that be the only food you choose as a snack. Also, Rather than reaching into and eating from the large container of nuts, prepare small containers of appropriate portions for snacks.

3. Be prepared. When you plan your menus for meals, include snacks for each day.  Put aside time in your week to make a batch of trail mix, roast an extra pan of vegetables, prepare a chicken/tuna salad, or boil a few extra eggs. Through this planned preparation, you are setting yourself up for success in your snacking.

4. Identify your weaknesses and eliminate the temptations. If you struggle with drinking cokes, eating too many chips, or reach for sweets too often-- don't keep them in your house. Instead keep your homemade snacks and fresh produce on hand.

5. Don't expect perfection but keep yourself accountable. Some adopt an 80/20 rule-- aim to eat healthy, whole foods 80% of time and allow treats for special occasions the remaining 20%.

6. Make your treats count. A fellow dietitian, Carlene Thomas, has a great mindset about those foods that are not for everyday consumption-- view them and experience them as a luxury. If you want ice cream or a chocolate, treat yourself to the best there is so that your experience enjoying them is full. Don't settle for a cheap alternative that still leaves you unsatisfied.

7. Assess your hunger before you eat. Are you truly hungry? Are you actually just thirsty? What flavors, textures, temperatures are you wanting? Once you identify the answers to these questions, seek to meet that hunger with the healthiest options: If you're wanting a crunchy fix-- reach for some plain nuts instead of chips. If you're wanting something sweet, try some fresh fruit or dark chocolate instead of cookies.

What smart snacking tips have you found to be helpful?

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