Archive for August 2012 – Page 2

Tips For Choosing Healthy Snacks

It can be difficult to always make healthy decisions when it comes to eating right, especially when trying to change your snacking habits. A lot of our “go-to” snacks – chips, salted nuts, candy – are full of unhealthy fats, additives and high levels of sugar.  Here are 9 steps to help you break the unhealthy snacking trend, and pick the snacks that are delicious and good for you.

Eat before you shop:  Going grocery shopping while hungry tends to make us make poor decisions, opting for junk food and premade, prepackaged food that we can eat right away! You may have intended to make healthy choices, but with a growling stomach, somehow, what ends up in your cart at checkout just doesn’t reflect healthy choices! Eat before you shop.

Eat less junk food:  If junk food has a big part in your diet, you might find switching to healthy snacks difficult. Remember that it is a gradual transition: instead of buying salty chips, try baked tortilla chips; make pizza instead of ordering out. You’ll be moving towards a healthier lifestyle in no time!

Promote healthy options: Not the person who shops for food in your household? Compile a list of healthy foods to help them navigate the aisles. Include dark green leafy vegetables, fruit, unsalted nuts and whole grain breads and cereals.

Avoid temptation:  Stocking your kitchen with healthy snacks instead of unhealthy options gets rid of the temptation. Watch out for party scenarios, dinner parties and events where unhealthy food abounds in leftovers: ice cream, desserts, chips, candy, etc. Having these foods in your house will tempt you to choose them over your healthier options.

Develop self control: Keeping unhealthy foods out of your kitchen is a big step in self-control. Now, go even further: listen to yourself, identify your bad snacking habits, and try your best to curb or control them. Focus less on food – instead of thinking on the sweets you’re missing out, focus on finding new, delicious and healthy treats. Try new recipes that encourage you to use healthy ingredients. If you have a habit of returning from work to an unhealthy snack every day, try alternatives: replace that snack with tea or a piece of fruit. Allow yourself the unhealthy snack once a week as opposed to every day.  These little steps can go a long way to helping you change your snacking habits for the better.

Distinguish between need and want: Try and understand food as a necessity and not just for comfort. Listen to your body and your behaviour: are you searching aimlessly through the cupboards, munching on what you find? You are eating compulsively and not for nourishment. Having a particular snack in mind, or craving fruit, water or salt, is an indication that your body craves the nutrients and minerals and needs the nourishment. However, cravings are not always indications of a need: craving ice cream doesn’t mean you need it.

Choose healthy snacks based on your meal plan:  It is important to balance your diet, and try and get a bit of each food group a day. This applies to your snacking habits as well: while yogurt is a great option for a snack, if you ate meals packed full with items from the dairy food group (milk, cheese), choose something from another food group to balance out your diet – a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or some veggies.

Gradually transition: We all have our favourite foods that can be difficult to give up. Instead of replacing your favourite snacks with completely different foods with unfamiliar flavours, try alternatives. If your favourite snack is chips and dip, try carrot sticks with small portions of ranch dressing.  Pop drinker? Keep the fizz by switching to mineral water. Enjoy milkshakes? Try fruit smoothies made with yogurt instead.

Control portion size, impulse buys and over-snacking: Even if you are eating a healthy snack, too much of it can ruin your appetite for meals that will provide you with more of the necessary nutrients you need: control your portion size, keeping snacks small.  Snacks should never be a replacement for a healthy meal. When you do snack, don’t go for impulse buys of sugary or fatty snacks – go for snacks that will supply you with energy and nutrients to help you make it to your next meal. These snacks include whole-grain foods, vegetables and fruits.

How to Snack Less in 7 Steps

Do you find yourself constantly snacking, even when you don’t feel hungry? Do you find yourself reaching for “comforting” (but unhealthy!) options when you are bored, lonely, fatigued or just because “it’s there”? Having healthy snacks here and there throughout the day is great, but over-snacking, especially on junk food and other unhealthy options, can lead to weight gain (which can usher in a whole other set of problems such as diabetes, loss of confidence, and high blood pressure.) Follow these next steps to help you snack less and eat right more often!

Step 1: Recognize and organize: You’ve noted that over-snacking and compulsive eating is a problem for you. Now, write down everything you eat on the average weekday, and then your average consumption on the weekend.

Step 2: Analyze the results: Take a look at what you just wrote and take in what it’s telling you: when do you eat the most – before lunch, after dinner? Do you eat or skip breakfast? What types of snacks are you choosing between meals?

Step 3: Cut one item at a time: If you find that you are picking up unhealthy options for snacks, it’s time to make a change. But remember, change doesn’t have to be drastic – it can be gradual. Let’s say that one of your snacking habits is to eat a bag of chips after lunch. For one day, don’t choose the chips. Keep it up for the next day, and the next, until you have gone a whole week without having that usual bag of chips. You’ll find that it was most probably unnecessary snacking. If you find you need something at that time of day, choose a healthy option like rice cakes or veggies. After you’ve succeeded in breaking one bad habit, try eliminating another for the next week. Build up to a complete re-haul of your diet!

Step 4: Set specific times for your meals: Try and eat your breakfast, mid-day snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner at set times – you’ll train your body to eat when it is hungry, and you’ll also be more prepared to feed it, perhaps with healthy snacks you’ve brought along. Leave at least 3-4 hours between each time you snack, and pay attention: are you eating because you are hungry, or…?

Step 5:  Pack your own snacks:  Packing your own snack will help you avoid giving into the various temptations that exist in the vending machines and corner stores. Pack healthy options like celery, low-salt pretzels,  a handful of almonds, plain popcorn, hummus with pita chips – the options are endless and delicious.

Step 6: Drink water: If you keep having the urge to snack, try drinking water. Sometimes thirst can be disguised as hunger. What’s more, you’ll be making sure you’re getting the necessary amount of water you need, which will help you have better skin, energy, and overall health!

Step 7: Be positive! Don’t get discouraged if you slip up once or twice. What you are doing takes hard work, and you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Stay motivated – focus on what you have accomplished, rather than the failures.

How to Stay Healthy: Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables!

Step 3: Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables!

You’ve probably heard this since you were a child, but the importance of getting lots of fresh produce in your diet cannot be overstated.

Fruits and veggies are not only delicious, versatile and readily available: they are also chock full of essential nutrients to keep your body healthy and happy. This food group provides you with lots of fiber, which as we’ve mentioned, helps control your cholesterol. Fiber also ensures the elimination of toxins and waste products, and that you have proper bowel functions.

What’s more, specific vegetables and fruits have notable health benefits unique to the food, but often indicated by the colour.

Orange coloured foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene which our bodies convert in vitamin A – vitamin A helps eyesight and healthy skin. Dark leafy green vegetables – spinach, kale, collard greens, chard – are full of vitamin C, and have high levels of iron and calcium. Dark berries, such as blueberries and blackberries, have powerful antioxidants, which fight cell damage caused by free radicals. In doing so, they help fight cancers, and slow the visible effects of aging.

The best way to get all the benefits of your fruits and veggies is to eat them daily. The great thing about this food group is how versatile fruits and veggies are presented:  raw, frozen, cooked, steamed, stir-fried, boiled..the ways of preparation are endless. Try to prepare them in such a way as so they maintain as much of their nutrients as possible – the more you cook them, the more they lose their nutritive goodness. Raw and steamed are delicious ways to prepare vegetables so that they still provide a punch of benefits; frozen produce also preserve a lot of nutrients.

Try some of these following tips to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet:

A)    During meals, try to always have a vegetable side – at least half of your plate should be vegetables (No, fries don’t count!)

B)    Choose fruit for dessert and snacks

C)    Eat dark green leafy vegetables every day

D)    When preparing produce,  be aware that the brighter and darker the fruit or vegetable, the more nutrient-packed it is.

More and more we are seeing a push for organic produce. This is because non-organic produce is grown using potentially harmful pesticides and additives. As it is on the trend, organic produce is becoming easier and easier to find. Try to visit your local farmer’s market every week: you’ll be able to stock up on local, seasonal, organic and delicious fresh produce.