Face it. We all snack. Especially if there are kids in the house. We’re all guilty of mindlessly chomping away and a bag of Doritos or a couple rows of Oreos later, we’re not even hungry…it just happened, like magic.
We’ve all done it. Easy. Relatively inexpensive. Tasty. There’s probably something staring at you from your pantry or tucked away in your fridge, right now, and like a moth to a flame, you’re now suddenly interested and thinking about a Netflix and binge marathon.
No shame. No judgement. It’s “Julia’s Law” – your desire for food is directly proportional to how badly you probably shouldn’t have it.
Yet, with Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away, and I heard Christmas carols playing today while grocery shopping, we all know weight gain this time of year is likely inevitable, but we all want to look our, sveltest, skinniest best for the family and friends we only see once every 12 months or so (see? Julia’s Law).
While we could all probably work on portion control, like knowing a standard serving of potato chips is about 150 calories for 14-15 chips or that a standard size candy bar is roughly 220 calories per serving, and there’s two servings, I’m not here to fat shame or talk you out of wiping your orange fingers on the dog and stepping away from the Cheetos. With the next six weeks being a food lovers dream, I’d just like to share some snacking ideas to help you keep off the pounds and take the guilt out of having that second slice of Aunt Betty’s famous pumpkin pie.
We know fruits and veggies are good for us. Hell, I have a couple pints of blackberries sitting here giving me the eye right now. But, there’s a couple things that can make a healthy, low-cal snack, not so nutritious in no time.
Dips and Sauces
I love broccoli, but you’ll never catch me eating it, especially raw, without something else. Same goes for apples (if you don’t think caramel on an apple is a glorious thing, you’re doing it wrong). But, sauces and dips can be loaded with fat, calories and we tend to “over-dip” because, duh! That’s the best part! The fruit/vegetable is just the vessel so you can avoid the shame of eating your dip with a spoon (again, no judgement. I’ve sat and watched my husband eat an entire jar of marshmallow fluff like a pudding cup). Read the nutrition facts first. Serving sizes are small (measure it out and see how many carrots you get with the standard two tablespoons of ranch, or whatever your flavor, dip). Instead, consider low fat/low calorie options (just because something is labeled “low fat”, does not make it so. Always double check – or, if you must have ranch dip, consider buying Greek yogurt or low calorie sour cream and one of those packages of dip mix and making your own so you control the calories), or healthier options like hummus, nut butters, plain Greek yogurt or even things like mustard, horseradish sauces (including wasabi), fruit butters, hot sauce, vinegar like malt or balsamic, or guacamole. Yeah, theres still some pretty high-cal options on that list, but those are good fat calories, the ones your body can use, and don’t pack quite as much sugar, fillers and preservatives, so you can feel a bit less guilty about double dipping.
If it’s prepackaged, it’s going to be less nutritious. Vitamins and minerals are lost in the packaging and preserving process. But, sometimes you just can’t avoid it. I adore pickled vegetables, and I could pickle my own okra or asparagus or cukes, but I just don’t have the time and resources, so a jar it is, especially if said vegetable is out of season. I love olives, but those olive bars in grocery and specialty shops are expensive! Unless they have some reduced or one hell of a sale, those bad boys are coming from the canned/jarred veggie aisle. And, it’s a special breed of insanity that makes anyone want to skin and core a pineapple; if you’re really bored some day, try hacking a coconut (have 911 on speed dial). But, when you can, buy fresh and prepare it yourself (which, fun fact – baby carrots are not a special breed. They originated with a farmer who was losing tons of his carrot crops due to them being undersized or ugly/misshapen. So he peeled them and cut them into what’s in that bag you probably have in your fridge for school lunches. However, after undergoing peeling, they get bathed in chemicals to prevent browning, retain freshness and extend shelf life. Your call.).
2. Try something new
I love chickpeas/garbanzo beans (whatever you refer to them as). I love hummus and even eat them on pizza. Roasting them though, gives them a light, satisfying crunch and make an excellent snack, chock-full of protein. With the foodie I am, I’d read about them numerous times but hadn’t gotten around to trying them until last weekend at a monthly wine club my husband and I attend. They serve snacks and pallet cleansers and hors d’oeuvres, which these crunchy, roasted, chipotle seasoned chickpeas were amongst. Delicious! A bag came home with us! Supremely satisfying at taking the edge off my salty cravings, too. Maybe sub them for croutons on a salad or crackers in soup. The bag even recommends adding them to party mix, which you know someone will be serving , so maybe you bring the cereal snack we all know and love and add these (let’s face it…the triple pretzel method leaves a lot to be desired). Edamame “chips” (rather the roasted pods and caviar, which is what the “seeds” or “beans” inside are actually called), a handful of nuts, and toasted veggie chips and crackers (just because they’re vegetable flavored does not mean they have any suitable source of veggies, so watch that) can all be super delicious and curb your salty, crunchy, savory cravings with tons of protein and other nutrients. Just avoid those puffy looking veggie sticks and snacks found in the chip aisle – yanno, the name brand involves a sailor and his treasure (or backside – however you like to think about it). They have no more nutritional value than a bag of potato chips.
3. If sweet is your go to treat…
Next time you’re tempted to grab a pudding cup or bowl of ice cream, grab a Greek yogurt instead. Personally, I prefer Oikos. However, those Chobani flips aren’t bad either. Again, protein. And, tons of it. You can get all your favorite ice cream flavors (even chocolate!), get that same sweet, creamy feel, but much better at nipping hunger pangs and filling you up. Much less guilt, too.
Why are we so damn hung up on protein?
Protein is the building block of the human body, from muscle to hair. The body processes it easier than carbs, facilitating muscle strength and repair, fills you up without the carb crash and provides steady, consistent energy. I’m not saying you need to go on that famous diet that Sharon Osbourne will try and shove down your throat as her testimony to weight loss and health. In fact, you may occasionally see me discuss my weight loss of 150lbs, most of which I dropped in five months, but every body is different. Which is why your BFF may swear by “X” diet but you gained 10lbs on it. I will say the diet I used was a high protein diet. However, I don’t necessarily advocate it to others, nor will you ever see any diet being recommended on GF. If you’re considering a diet, I recommend you speak with your doctor and perhaps a nutritionist. They know you – I don’t. They are much more qualified to recommend what may work best for you. I will say, I tried (and inevitably failed) several before finding the one that worked for me. I’ve drank the disgusting shakes. Ate the gross bars. Soup, salad, more cardio, more weights. You name it. Protein is amazing though, and while it may or may not help with any weight issues you may or may not have, it’s going to build/repair muscle, strengthen hair and nails and help your skin glow. Plus, help kill cravings. Sounds like a good deal to me!
4. This sounds good, but you can’t live without…
Doritos? BBQ potato chips? Ice cream? Whatever your snacking pleasure is, don’t completely deny yourself! Like a diet, it’s a set up for failure of you completely deny yourself everything you love. Splurge! But, watch your portions, maybe cut back (or cut back/cut out other, lesser favorites) and ask yourself if you’re really hungry before you dive in. Most studies show that if you can occupy yourself for about 10 minutes when the snacking urge strikes, you’ll find it lessens or quits because it’s often boredom, not hunger, that has us crunching and munching. Read something. Take a walk. Pop in a movie. Take some silly FB personality quizzes. If you’re still hungry, go for it (in moderation!). Try getting your mind off it, first though. And, forget paying twice as much for those “calorie packs” – make your own! Stock up on zip seal bags and portion snacks for yourself. This way, you grab a pre-portioned bag and aren’t as tempted to have “just one or two more…”. Works for the kids, too, especially when they’re being a pain to begin with. You grab little Susie or Johnny a pre-portioned bag, they know their “limit” and there’s no meltdown because they can’t have the whole bag. They wanna scarf ’em down or savor them – choice is theirs! So, you’re helping them learn portion control, limits and other healthy eating habits all at the same time. And, don’t be afraid to tell them no to a second bag, either. Trust me. They won’t die. You may want to at first, but you’re doing us all a favor in the long run.
5. Avoid drinking your snack
Studies show drinking calories is much less gratifying than actually chewing them. Pre-made juices, smoothies and shakes are typically more sugar than anything. There’s that crash again, as soon as your body’s processed it. Won’t lie. This is a hard time of year for me, because we have a local grinder and sub chain that produces a fruit slush (what made them famous around here). They have four flavors year ’round and each month have a specialty flavor. Well, October and November are the two months I have to have the FOTM. My husband isn’t a fan of them, but indulges me. They do include actual fruit and probably beat the hell out of a fast food shake. I can’t say I honestly feel full after having one though and I’m sure if I read the nutrition facts and saw the sugar and calorie count, I may have a heart attack. It’s one of my splurges though (re-read #4 if you missed that). Otherwise, consider making your own juice or smoothies to control everything from sugar to calories to flavor. Also, check the alcohol aisle. Seriously. A lot of drink mixers (the ones you just add the booze to) actually have more juice and less sugar than brands you may find in the juice aisle. Seriously! We’re big Bloody Mary folks (as you should know) and we buy Mr&Mrs T or Zing Zang over the tomato juices in the juice aisle. Alcoholic or not. The flavor is better and so is the nutritional value. That famous tomato juice – the one with a letter and number in the name – is typically 5% juice, where the mixers run about 95% juice. Tough call.
6. Read ingredients and nutrition information religiously
Formulas change. Suppliers switch. New and improved often means cheaper ingredients and a heftier price tag. Know what’s going in your mouth before you buy. Some may surprise you – for better or worse. Also, those values can change depending on flavor (chips for example) or how they’re produced (let’s say baked versus fried). Like those chips that “once you pop, you can’t stop”, and those ones that, “you can’t eat just one”? Check them both and opt for the lesser evil. Trust me. Having food allergies and having lost and kept so much weight off, for so long, I am that person you will see in the middle of the aisle reading everything. I’m used to it. My hubby, not so much. He will attest to what a pain in the ass it is. As silly as it sounds, this alone will make you far more conscious about exactly what you’re eating.
7. Just like dieting…
Avoid mindlessly eating (again, see #4). Avoid snacking away as you’re watching TV, surfing the web, or engrossed in a good book. Stop those activities and move to the dining room table. You’ll eat less because you’re eager to get back to your movie/FBing/reading, be more conscious about what you’re eating and notice when you’re full, faster and easier since you’re concentrating on the task at hand and not distracted, just going through the motions. It takes on average 20 minutes for your brain to send your stomach the memo that you’re full (for meals at least – since snacking is typically meant to tide one over between meals, that time should be a bit less).
8. Don’t shop on an empty stomach
Everything is libel to look extra delicious when you’re starving! That’s two bags of chips in your cart instead of one. That’s butter pecan ice cream because you haven’t had it in years and now you suddenly must. That’s all those over-processed foods (#1) that you’re buying in a hurry because you want to eat. Keep a healthy treat like a bag of almonds or a granola bar in your purse/car for unexpected shopping trips or snack before you go. A list can help, but not when you’re dying of hunger and there’s a candy bar in the checkout lane that just tempted you. Again, guilty. Craig and I did some of our Thanksgiving shopping today (when name brand butter is under $2.00 a box, you jump!) and while I wasn’t remotely hungry when we left – by the time I smelled bread being baked and ripe apples by the display-full and onions being cooked in the deli area…my list went out the window. I had impulse moments before we were even close to the magazines and chocolate bars. I don’t eat much, but being hungry suddenly led to me grabbing far more carb-a-licious, calorie laden, junk food than I would have grabbed had I not been salivating all over the poor man sampling New York Crunch Rolls (sushi). I was HANGRY at that point. So, now I sit here snacking on soft pretzel bites and over-processed cheese food product, with a side of peppermint and chocolate sandwich cookies, rather than my typical broccoli and hummus and those blackberries I told you about earlier. Could have easily been avoided had a thrown a package of wasabi almonds or some of those chipotle chickpeas in my purse.
Which is what got me on this whole subject to begin with.
Just some simple ideas to help your holidays be happier and take the guilt out of indulging a bit this season. They say it takes three weeks to learn a new habit and if you start now, these ideas can easily help you from making a diet one of your New Year’s resolutions (or a heart attack/diabetes one of your holiday gifts).
From us to you, happy holidays and salut!