17 Healthy Snacks You Should Try

by Carrie Sowiak, NASM certified personal trainer

How many times a day do you snack on something healthy? If you’re a snacker, are you doing it wisely? Do you take time to think about what you should snack on? And some of you might not snack, but rather eat small meals. Here is a list of some good options for smart snacking and small healthy meals:

  • Avocado – have with lettuce, portioned out tortilla chips, or just with a dash of salt, it’s delicious and healthy with its good fats!
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Turkey (leftovers or deli meat, actually from the deli, not pre-packaged)
  • An easy salad – this does not have to be a big production! It could be just three things in a bowl, whatever you might have in the kitchen for fruits and vegetables to eat up (if you buy produce, it forces you to eat it!)
  • Cottage cheese with low-fat whole grain crackers (Trader Joe’s has great choices for crackers) Add pepper, fruit or chives, dill or fresh basil, whatever you might have, fresh or dried. Grow a container herb garden!
  • Tuna – play around with your tuna salad recipe, adding capers, lemon, scallions, pickle relish, or using your favorite low calorie salad dressing
  • Small bowl of whole grain, low sugar, high fiber cereal with fresh berries or bananas. Look beyond the major cereal brands and try the brands at Sprouts and Natural Grocers. Read the labels!
  • Bowl of homemade vegetable soup, or low sodium if not homemade
  • A V8! low salt of course
  • Blue Diamond Nut Thins
  • Trader Joe’s multigrain pita bite crackers (great w/hummus, Trader Joe’s has fun varieties of that too)
  • Popcorn, minimal butter if any, and if you don’t like it dry, pop it in olive or peanut  oil
  • Cut up fresh fruit (mangoes, melon, pineapple, berries)
  • Bread and butter pickles (Famous Dave’s makes a good pickle)
  • Black bean dip with a small bowl of tortilla chips, or use fresh veggies to dip (If you buy baby carrots, they’re ready to eat, also tasty with peanut butter)
  • Delicious varieties of interesting cheeses, enjoy in small quantities
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes (lots of varieties to choose from)

And here are some of my favorite tips for healthier eating:

  • Keep your food interesting and change it up frequently!
  • Ask yourself if whatever you’re eating or drinking is worth the calories rather than just eating it because it’s there, or out of boredom. If the bread or tortilla chips at the restaurant aren’t warm, don’t indulge. If the wine doesn’t taste great, give it away or order a different one. Really savor what you’re consuming!
  • When snacking, position food so you have to get up from your chair to get to it! And always serve yourself up a small bowl or plate rather than eating out of the bag or box; that way, you know when you’re finished! (And you look more civilized too!)

Fitness Apps

by Carrie Sowiak, NASM certified personal trainer

Looking for some motivation without hiring a trainer? Try some of these free helpful fitness apps:

Daily Yoga

  • 50+ classes
  • HD video
  • each sequence has specific focus
  • detailed pose library w/ videos of more than 500 poses

 

Nike Training Club

  • expert guidance
  • workouts doable anywhere
  • motivating
  • easy to follow videos to guide you through every drill
  • can share progress with friends and Nike community

 

Lose It! and Snap It

  • Upload food pics to Lose It!, and Snap It identifies the food to get calorie count and nutrition info

 

My Fitness Pal

  • database of more than 5 million foods
  • barcode nutrition scanner and recipe importer
  • quickly track food intake and exercise to help you balance your calories daily

 

MapMyRun

  • feedback and stats help you improve performance with every mile you go
  • new workout routines which you can save and share
  • for beginners and seasoned runners

 

Fitnet

  • an abundance of 5 and 7 minute targeted workouts
  • uses your phone’s camera to measure how closely you follow the moves

 

Diet Bet

  • for the gambler who wants to lose weight
  • bet on yourself and win money for achieving your weight loss goal

 

Strava

  • track all your runs and rides
  • works with your GPS device
  • view your activity and earn badges for completing certain challenges or compete with other users

 

SWorkit (“Simply Work It”)

  • offers videos of exercises demonstrated by professional personal trainers
  • versatile with over 200 types of exercises

Mindful Movement

When we’re hurried, we forget to be mindful of our posture and movement patterns as we go about our daily life. Awareness of movement prevents accidents, bumps, and the resulting bruises, while helping us to avoid chronic alignment issues in our body that cause nagging aches and pains. It also helps us be more graceful and less clumsy, which is always a good thing!

Learn to be mindful of your body with these simple tips:

  • Drop your shoulders and keep your neck long, which is good practice for even just walking or standing.
  • Lift things with your legs and core engaged, not with a rounded back.
  • When reaching for things, don’t use just your arm – think about engaging the core muscles.
  • Switch hands to perform tasks if you can, as your dominant arm may already be fatigued from typing or whatever repetitive movements it does all day.
  • Lighten your load! Are you one of those people with a large heavy purse or carrying two bags at once? Before carrying these things around for an hour or two while shopping, remove things that are not necessary for that particular day. Be sure to switch arms frequently while carrying bags and purses.
  • Watch your texting and computer posture, and notice it on your friends and family so you can kindly correct them! Avoid long duration use of these devices. If you’re already struggling with pain in your wrist, forearm, shoulders, or neck, take a “tech break” as often as you can.
  • Notice your driving posture. Do you lean to one side? Are you slumped in your seat? Do you jut your neck forward? All these movements can take a toll on your body.
  • Take time for stretching! Even if only a few minutes each day, consistency is key! As you walk through a doorway, place each hand against the door frame, and lean forward. Take 5 deep breaths, then go about your business!

For tips on specific tasks and how to use your body more efficiently to complete them, check out Get Fit While Spring Cleaning.

More Small Lifestyle Changes for Weight Loss

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By Carrie Sowiak

Hopefully by this time, you have incorporated some of my previous weight loss tips into your life. Now, if you’re ready, here’s a few more tips. And if you’re not, there may be one here that’s easier to handle! The first tip is a repeat, but it’s important!

  • Eat your larger meal or the bulk of your calories early in the day, tapering off as the day goes on. Make the majority of those calories a high quality protein, not excluding other foods, but as a complement to balance the meal. High quality proteins are complete proteins that contain all the essential amino acids, such as eggs, fish, lean beef, cottage cheese, poultry, milk, yogurt (watch the sugar content), whey protein, and soy. Eat one palm-sized portion (approx 20-30 gms) of quality protein at each meal, and decrease this portion in the evening, when most people are eating significantly more than their bodies can benefit from.
  • Watch your sugar intake. Americans eat 20 percent more sugar now than they did in 1986! The average American consumes 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day (that added sugar doesn’t include the naturally occurring sugars in milk and fruit). Many mini candy bars, 12-ounce sodas, and one-cup servings of ice cream contain 10 or more teaspoons of added sugar. The USDA recommends adults get no more than 6 to 10 percent of their daily calories from sugar (about 6 teaspoons per 1,600 calories). Your sugar craving may indicate you’re not getting enough nutrients. Eat the recommended servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein and you may be less inclined to indulge in sugar.
  • Sneak in activity wherever and whenever you can. Seek it out, like stairs and parking further away from your destination. 10 minutes of exercise on a busy day is way better than none! You’ll be a better person for making that time for yourself!
  • Hold yourself accountable. If you have a bad day of eating, make up for it the next day – instead of a muffin or cereal at breakfast, make an egg with whole grain toast and an avocado, or make the day a “vegetarian day”.
  • Strive to sleep 8 hours each night. Lack of sleep alters hormones in the blood that control appetite and promote weight gain (Chaput & Tremblay 2012). Chronic poor sleep, or lack of sleep, triggers more signals to the brain to eat and reduces signals that enough food has been eaten (Markwald et al. 2013).

Remember, try one or two things at a time and make them habitual before tackling another tip.

 

Small Lifestyle Changes for Weight Loss

small-changes-for-weight-loss

by Carrie Sowiak, CPT

Are you exercising and wondering why you can’t lose weight? Exercise alone is not enough, particularly if you’re just doing cardio. You must reduce the number of calories and speed up your metabolism, which is not a surprise, but many people have trouble applying this simple concept, because it’s not easy!

Check out this checklist and pick at least two of these tips to work on every day. As they get easier, add in another until three of them become habit. You should notice at least a small drop in your weight and feel better too. If your scale is stuck on a number, take notice of the way your clothes fit, your endurance for things like climbing stairs, if aches and pains have diminished, and your posture. Focus on positive changes that are happening in your body even if the scale is not changing. You really don’t have to step on the scale more than once a week or every two weeks. Remember, if it took you years to put the weight on, it will take some time to lose it.

The important thing is that you adopt a healthier lifestyle in the process! The keyword here is lifestyle – it’s not a temporary situation. Even someone who is 50 or more pounds overweight can become much healthier on the inside, and more fit, even though their weight is stuck at an undesirable number. But that’s a step in the right direction! Just keep at it!

Checklist for Better Health

  • Drink more water. Add lemons or cucumbers to make this more desirable if you struggle to do this.
  • Reduce the amount and eventually omit high calorie beverages such as coffee drinks, sodas, cocktails, wine, and beer. If omitting these is unattainable, find lower calorie options to your favorite drinks.
  • Drink less alcohol, or omit it completely! Alcohol has empty calories providing no nutritional value and slows the metabolism. If you must, limit yourself to one drink per day, like one glass of red wine for heart health. However, you must then omit those calories somewhere else, like dessert, sugary snacks, or extra helpings of carbohydrates.
  • Eat more veggies and fruits, striving for 5-9 servings of both per day. “Surround yourself” with them, by buying them or picking them, the ones in season, and eat them all day. If they’re there, and they’re tasty, you’ll eat them. If you’re at a restaurant, be sure to eat any fruits and veggies on the plate – they are not just a garnish, they’re good for you! When making meals at home, center your meals around them, or at least include 2 servings of them at every meal. So instead of focusing on meat to be the main part of the meal, try a new recipe to prepare the vegetables you just bought. Again, make yourself use them before they perish. And remember veggies are filling, so you will feel satisfied.
  • No fast food. Talk yourself out of even stopping. And don’t use the kids as an excuse. You must set a good example for them anyway so let them help you make a healthier meal or snack at home.
  • Cardio alone is not enough! Strength training must be incorporated to impact your metabolism by increasing lean tissue because it burns calories at a faster rate than fat. If you’re unsure how to safely do this on your own, invest in yourself and hire an experienced and certified personal trainer, at least for a few sessions to get your program established.
  • Keep increasing your exercise intensity so it is a little uncomfortable. If your current routine gets comfortable and habitual, you need to spice it up! An effective workout should challenge you and it should be an effort to complete, both the cardio and the strength portions. These can be combined for a metabolism boosting interval workout.
  • Only eat out once per week if at all, unless you have researched a restaurant’s menu and philosophy to see if they’re cooking healthy. Making meals at home doesn’t have to be a big production. For a quick and easy meal, use those veggies you bought in sandwiches, a stir fry, with whole grain pasta, or a big salad (pay attention to the calories in your dressing. A good balsamic vinegar and olive oil, or dressings with good fats and not saturated fats in smaller quantities are your best options.) When you have time, pre-make your salad toppings. Chopping up a variety of salad veggies on the weekend and storing them in an airtight container (except tomatoes, those will have to be added when serving) makes it easy to throw together a salad during the week. If you don’t have time for that, buy a pre-made salad at a grocery store, not a fast food restaurant. You’re staying away from those!
  • Don’t eat past 7:00 pm. It’s better to digest a while before you lie down.
  • Eat on small plates, with chopsticks when possible. And don’t eat mindlessly. Set the table and eat there, not on the couch. Again, this sets a good example for the kids and promotes conversation and mindful eating so you can enjoy the food. If you’re eating alone, TV may be your choice of company, but still try to be mindful. Maybe set up your place on a pillow on the floor in front of the coffee table. The important thing is that you’re aware of having the meal, how much you’re eating, and how satisfied you feel when you finish. Make it an enjoyable activity.
  • When possible, eat your larger meal earlier in the day, and taper off in the evening. Weekends may be easier for trying this technique.
  • Savor the flavors. If it’s not really delicious, and the situation allows for it, skip those calories if the food is not enjoyable.

Try these tips and don’t get discouraged! A healthier you will be a happier you!

Burn, Burn, Burn Those Calories!

Metabolism article - strength training

Metabolism, the process of converting food into fuel, is a complex interaction of hormones and enzymes that work together around the clock to produce energy needed to function. The rate at which we burn calories depends on age, gender, genetics, lifestyle, and body composition. Muscle tissue contributes approximately 20% to total daily energy expenditure, whereas fat tissue contributes approximately 5% (for individuals with about 20% body fat). As we age, our metabolism plummets 5% each decade after 40. Men burn more calories than women due to higher lean body mass.

Here are a few things you can do to help increase your metabolic rate:

  1. Strength train
  2. Eat your biggest meal earlier in the day, and then taper off to a small meal in the evening. Eat often: Small, frequent healthy snacks keep metabolism on track. Skipping meals or starvation diets only suppress metabolism. Metabolism jumps slightly after eating because of the thermic effect of food, which keeps your metabolic “fires burning”.
  3. High intensity interval training
  4. Strive for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  5. When you must sit, do it on a therapy ball or stand if possible. Clerical workers can expend more energy by ditching the office chair for a therapy ball or standing (Beers et al. 2008).
  6. Caffeine, capsaicin, and green, white and oolong teas may increase energy expenditure 4%-5% (Hursel & Westerterp-Plantenga 2010). Green tea has been shown to promote dose-dependent weight loss and weight maintenance, especially if combined with caffeine (Hursel et al. 2011). Try a catechin-caffeine combo: Caffeine stimulates thermogenesis via the sympathetic nervous system. Green tea contains both catechins and caffeine. This dynamic duo causes a dose-dependent increase in energy expenditure, particularly in some ethnic groups. (Hursel & Westerterp-Plantenga 2010). Capsaicin puts the hot in chili peppers and boosts thermogenesis via catecholamines. Significant increases in metabolism have been reported in Asian populations consuming this hot commodity, but results are mixed in other ethnic groups (Hursel & Westerterp-Plantenga 2010).
  7. Stay well hydrated, drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day. Check out our article on the many benefits of incorporating more water into your everyday routine.