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!)

More Small Lifestyle Changes for Weight Loss

pexels-photo-24503-stairs

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.

 

Foods To Fight Inflammation

Fruits and Veggies

Inflammation is a natural reaction to injury or infection. The causes of chronic inflammation vary, but include being overweight, smoking, stress, environmental toxins, sedentary lifestyle, and lack of sleep. When a body becomes chronically inflamed, a multitude of negative and potentially injurious conditions can result. Inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases. A diet rich in colorful plant-based foods, quality protein, and healthy fats can fight inflammation.

  • Fruits and vegetables in every color, particularly leafy greens, blueberries, pomegranates, strawberries, fresh pineapple, tart cherries, and red grapes. Frozen fruits and veggies offer the same benefits out of season.
  • Legumes such as soybeans, lentils, pintos and peanuts
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plant sources such as flaxseeds and walnuts
  • Garlic
  • Ginger – found especially effective as an anti-inflammatory medication for pain management in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (Ribel-Madsen et al. 2012).
  • Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is a widely used spice–especially common in South Asian dishes such as curry–that has been associated with anti-inflammatory effects owing to its active ingredient curcumin, which reduces the activity of inflammatory enzymes in the body (Kuptniratsaikul et al. 2009).
  • Parsley (great w/eggs, potatoes, fish, chicken, pasta salad, be creative!)
  • Green tea (iced or hot) instead of sweetened beverages – sugar causes inflammation
  • A glass of red wine, peanuts, and cranberries all have anti-inflammatory properties due to their resveratrol.
  • Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao)
  • Hot peppers contain capsaicin, which is known to blunt the pain response (Leong et al. 2013). If you don’t like spicy, get your capsaicin in topical creams or ointments.

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.

Drink More Water For Better Health

Delicious ice drink with strawberries, mint and ice on the background of of solar garden

Cheers! To Water!

There’s nothing new about the fact that drinking more water helps you lose weight and improve health. In a study, led by Brenda Davy, PhD, RD, associate professor in the department of human nutrition, foods and exercise at Virginia Tech, researchers found that “middle-aged and older people who drank 2 cups of water right before a meal ate 75–90 fewer calories during that meal. In this recent study, they found that over the course of 12 weeks, dieters who drank water before meals three times per day lost about 5 pounds more than dieters who did not increase their water intake” (Webster 2010).  If you fill your stomach before a meal, you will eat less. And if you’re drinking water, you’re probably not drinking sugary/high calorie beverages.  All of this helps us along the path to weight loss.

Dehydration Can Lead to Health Problems

In spite of the fact that we know drinking water is good for us, most of us have trouble taking enough in. This can lead to kidney stones, difficulty with weight loss, headaches, poor nutrient absorption, constipation, and a slower metabolism since water is the medium for most chemical reactions in the body, especially those involving energy production. Because of its numerous and diverse functions in the body, water is often regarded as the most important nutrient.

Vitamins & Water

Taking vitamins and herbal supplements is a great opportunity to have a full glass of water and if you’re not taking any vitamins, you probably should be! Have your doctor do a blood test to determine what you may be low in. Surprisingly, many of us – male and female alike – are deficient in vitamin D. I found out that I was, so now I get outside as much as possible! If you are feeling stressed, you may need to take a B complex. If you’re having any pain issues associated with inflammation, turmeric is a great herbal supplement in a capsule form that can help relieve pain when taken regularly. Vitamins C and E are great for the skin, and fighting wrinkles from the inside is just as important as treating them on the outside. And of course, a multiple vitamin can be beneficial for most people since we may not eat enough fruits and vegetables (5-9 servings per day).

Flavors Make It More Enticing

If you’re still not excited about water, maybe you’re not drinking the right kind. Maybe you need to filter your water, or change the filter on the water dispenser in your refrigerator. If you want a little flavor in your water, squeeze in some fresh lemon, lime, orange, or cucumber wedges. Even making a batch of mint tea, or other herbal tea, hot or iced, can count as a water serving, just don’t over-sweeten! Use honey or agave nectar to sweeten it if you want a little sweetener.

Make Opportunities to Drink More Water

How many times have you been offered water and you declined? Or, when in a restaurant, did you forget to ask for water at a place that doesn’t automatically pour it and you just ordered another kind of drink? Whenever you are offered water, take it, and drink it! If you are in your car frequently, try to take it with you. However, don’t drink from a plastic bottle that sat in the heat.

All Fluids Count, But Water’s Best

Of course, water is the preferred beverage to replace the fluid you lose each day, followed by beverages that contain little to no calories. But all daily fluids you consume do add up. The Institute of Medicine recommends that men get about 14 cups of fluid daily, while women should aim for 10 cups per day. Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding may need more. Here’s a basic rule: if the color of your urine is pale yellow, you’re probably getting enough fluids. If it is dark yellow, probably not.

Now, if you don’t already have a glass of water beside you, go get one! Cheers!

 


Sources

Webster, Sandy Todd.  IDEA Fitness Journal (Oct 19, 2010).