Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Diet Snacking Tips

So, the first day I went on my diet, my SO and I went to Trader Joes, then later to Costco, to shop for healthy snacks.  The reason we did this is because we figured if we had healthy alternatives around the house, it will be less likely for us to end up eating something we should not.  We decided on buying a variety of perishable (fresh) and products that can be stored for longer periods of time.

At Trader Joes, we purchased a variety of nuts, dried fruits, and prepared foods such as various power, energy, protein, and snack bars.  Throughout the week, as I continue to count my calories, I'm starting to come up with some suggestions and advice from my own mistakes and learning.  At Costco, we purchased some protein bars, vegetables, Cuties tangerines, and grapefruit.

As you can see from above, I'm targeting a high protein, low fat, low sugar, and low carbohydrate diet.  This worked for me last time around and I have confidence it will work again.

Here are some highlights of my snacking habits, in no particular order:

The good finds:
  • High protein, low carb (and sugar), energy bars seem to be the best bet.  Although they normally have 250-300 calories per serving (which based on my calculations is about 1/4 of my daily calorie allowance), they are amazingly filling.  Many times, I would only eat half of a protein bar and I would be full for the next few hours.  I think that's a huge bang for the buck.  The bars I would recommend would be Clif Builder's Bars (~270 calories but a lot more filling than the original Clif Bar) or Premier Nutrition Protein bar (which has less carbohydrates, and much more protein at ~280 calories).  You can find Premier Nutrition products at your local Costco.
  • Clif ("Cliff") Bars recently came out with the Mojo bar.  At ~180 calories per serving, this larger size "trail mix" like energy bar is a great alternative to the original Clif bar.  The portion is bigger, it tastes better, and you ingest less calories.  The downside is that this bar is still fairly high in sugar and carbohydrates. 
  • Nature Valley Granola Bars.  If you look at the ingredients, they are not much different in terms of the number of carbs and sugar than an original Clif Bar.  The biggest difference is that they taste like real food, at at 190 calories you can satisfy your craving and still have some calories left for other snacking needs.
  • Costco Kirkland brand Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast.  At 60 calories for 2 slices, these are some of the best "natural" snacking food you can find out there.  High in protein, low in fat and sugar/carbs.  The downside is this product is higher in sodium, so you have to keep an eye out for how many you eat.  Best of all, compared to other energy bars, these turkey slices taste like real food!
  • Dried fruits (no sugar) and lightly salted nuts.  In terms of bang for the calorie, these fruits and nuts tend to have more calories by volume than the prepared energy bars, but because they are not heavily processed, sometimes they offer more nutrition and it's a great way to mix in some variety so you don't get tired of eating the same thing.  Just remember to control your portions!  A handful of cashews or almonds has the same amount of calories as a Mojo bar!
  • Cuties tangerines (you can find them in big bags in Costco and/or your local supermarket).  They are small, individual serving sized, easy to peel, sweet, and contain only 40 calories per serving.  When I have a sweets craving, I usually default to this.
  • Grapefruit.  I'm not a huge fan of grapefruits but my SO swears by this.  They are not as sweet, so for the same volume contain less calories than a comparable citrus, i.e. you can eat more of it.  

The duds:
  • One of my old favorite energy bar was the Clif ("Cliff") Bars, with various flavors such as BlueBerry Crisp, Chocolate Brownie, and other tasty alternatives.  Unfortunately, the original Clif Bars are high in sugar and carbs,  small in size, and about 250 calories per serving.  I would eat one of these and still feel hungry -- not good.
  • I did not buy any "original" Power Bars because I just do not find them tasty.  Back in the day, they used to be my go to energy bar, but now with all these great alternatives, there's no real reason to.
  • Trader Joes unsalted, roasted almonds.  They taste like cardboard and they offer no nutritional advantage to the lightly salted variety.  The unsalted, roasted almonds are now serving as dog treats for our Doberman.

One trend you will see is that most energy bars are not very healthy.  They are generally heavily processed and high in sugar and carbohydrates.  This is ironic because the perception is that these are healthier alternatives than many candy bars -- depending on the brand, this is not always the case.

Lastly, remember to drink plenty of water.  Most of the time, when we "think" we're hungry, it's really our body telling us we are thirsty.  By training your mind to understand that your body isn't hungry, but thirsty, you save yourself from ingesting wasted calories.  In addition, drinking plenty of fluids tricks your stomach to think it's full and you will actually end up eating less!

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