February is National Snack Food Month and you might be wondering why this is something a healthy person would celebrate. Traditionally, we think of snack foods as those unhealthy “junk” foods that are loaded with calories and fats, but the fact is this doesn’t have to be the case. In addition, many people shun the idea of snacking entirely–believing that snacking will cause them to gain weight. This week I want to show you how snacking can be a healthy part of your diet depending on what you eat and how you incorporate it into your daily plan.
Let’s start with the overall idea of snacking. It’s not a bad thing! When snacking on the right foods (and within limits) it can help you to keep your metabolism regulated, keep your energy levels up and keep you from overeating at regular mealtimes. You’ll find that many diet plans actually provide for two or three healthy snacks per day. This will keep you feeling satisfied so that you don’t end up cheating or giving up on the plan entirely because you’re feeling hungry all the time.
The key to successful snacking is what you eat for your snack. So, gone are the cupcakes, the chips or the cookies. They are all loaded with calories, fat, sodium and little or no nutritional value. What you’re looking for are snacks that will provide a boost of energy with minimal calorie and fat impact, but are higher in fiber and vitamins. Fruit and vegetables are your best options in these categories. What I like to do is pair them with a protein so that I’m feeling full longer as proteins take longer for the body to break down. Some of my favorite snacks are grapes and string cheese, celery and low-fat cream cheese or apples and peanut butter. These are all simple to grab and go–little prep time needed and they keep me satisfied until my next meal. I went searching for some healthy snack foods and I found a few great ideas I know I’ll be using.
This is an updated version of my apples and peanut butter idea, but also using raisins and oats. Still simple, but I’ll bet this one is even better!
Guacamole stuffed eggs are a great idea. I make my own guacamole, but store bought would work fine too. You’ll get the heart healthy fat from the avocado in this snack.
Tomato, fresh mozzarella and avocado stacks are simple and delicious. Top with some cracked black pepper and, if you choose, a fresh basil leaf.
I love this idea! Take some yogurt and add dried fruit and nuts. Then freeze and break off into chunks and you’ll have a yogurt “candy” of sort. The variations are endless, simply use your favorite yogurt flavor (remember to use fat free or low-fat) and your favorite dried fruit and nuts. Looks like they went with vanilla yogurt and dried strawberries with pistachios in this version–yum!
I hope these suggestions inspire you to start snacking if you aren’t already and, if you are, to add more healthy versions to your day.
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For many, February brings to mind Valentine’s Day and candy hearts, but more importantly, February is American Heart Month. You may have seen the Go Red campaign on television or in magazines. Go Red is designed to raise awareness about heart disease in women. In fact, heart disease is the #1 killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer. It’s quite frightening, but the good news is that there are things we can do to fight heart disease. Knowing your risk factors to start, knowing the signs of a heart attack and, most importantly, living a healthy lifestyle.
Risk factors for heart disease, like many diseases, come in two types–those you can control and those you can’t. If you are diabetic you are much more likely to develop heart disease than someone who isn’t. Heart disease can also run in families (the heredity factor). But then there are things that can increase your risk such as smoking and being inactive, which are things that you have control over. The American Heart Association recommends people keep their cholesterol levels in check, blood pressure levels regulated, stay at a healthy weight, be physically active and refrain from smoking to reduce their risk of heart disease.
Sounds great, right? The tough part for many of us is changing our habits so that we’re living a healthy lifestyle. This is where fruit and vegetables can make that transition easier. Fruit and veggies are low in calories, high in fiber, cholesterol free, low in sodium and provide a wide variety of vitamins. If you need to drop a few pounds, they can help you reach your goal and keep you satisfied while doing so. A recent Insider’s Viewpoint provides more details on all their heart-healthy benefits.
Need an example of a great heart-healthy meal? Try this one out–and I even picked one that you can make for Valentine’s day dinner–Yellow Potato and Red Pepper Shrimp Saute.
Lastly, being active doesn’t mean you have to drop mega bucks at your local gym. If you belong to a gym, terrific. If not, no worries. We’re about to enter my favorite season–spring! And, this is a terrific time to get outside and be active. Walking, jogging, playing with your kids–these are all considered physical activity. Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a great section on physical activity and its importance in reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
So, this month give yourself a special Valentine’s gift and make sure you and your family are treating your hearts extra special!
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It can be tough to get going on cold winter mornings and we’ve had plenty of them this year in my neck of the woods! I find that a hearty bowl of oatmeal can warm me up while giving me a boost of energy to start my day. There are plenty of ready-made options you can purchase in your local supermarket, but if you want to really treat yourself to a breakfast that will not only taste better, but provide you with more fiber and vitamins, I’ve got some homemade options to try.
First of all, start with rolled oats that you cook rather than the instant stuff in the packet. Then, add some fruit to your oatmeal. Dried fruit like raisins, dried cranberries or dried apricots work really well. Next, throw in some nuts for protein. I love slivered almonds or chopped walnuts. I also love to top my oatmeal with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. It’s a simple and easy preparation, tastes much better than the instant variety and provides more fiber/vitamins. You can replace the dried fruit with fresh fruit like sliced banana if you choose, chopped apple or pear, sliced peaches or mixed berries. The options are endless–you’re only limited by your imagination.
Here is a great recipe for Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal. Fruit and nuts, flavored with a touch of vanilla makes this a winner.
Another way to boost your oatmeal is to add pureed fruit like applesauce or pumpkin puree. Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal pumpkin puree as well as pumpkin pie spice–you’ll think you’re eating a dessert instead of a nutritious breakfast!
Another option, which uses fresh berries is this recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Oatmeal. You top this oatmeal with Greek yogurt and berries for a fresh twist to your oatmeal.
We’ve got another month or so of winter left so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try a few of these tasty recipes. I think once you start preparing you’re own oatmeal, you’ll never want to go back to the instant again.
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About three years ago, I made the decision to take the More Matters Pledge to add one more serving of fruit and vegetables to my daily diet and it was the start of one of the smartest decisions I’d ever make.
My diet has always been rather healthy–consisting of lean protein, a decent amount of vegetables and for the most part I would stay away from processed food. However, after learning that the more fruit and vegetables we add to our daily intake the healthier we are, I realized that I wasn’t eating as much fruit as I should and I did have other opportunties to add more variety of veggies to my diet. I started by replacing snack food with whole fruit or replacing a cup of coffee with a cup of 100% fruit juice. These were simple changes that resulted in big differences in how I felt and, over time, in weight loss!
After time, I stepped up my Pledge so that I was making half my plate fruit and vegetables. This not only put me in line with the USDA guidelines, but continued to streamline my weight loss. I found it easy to make meals that were both nutritious and delicous, which were filling and filled with produce. Since I was replacing higher calorie/fat foods with fruit and vegetables, I was naturally losing weight slowly without feeling deprived. Since many fruit and veggies are filled with fiber, they left me feeling full and the vitamins they had provided plenty of energy.
Fast forward to today and I continue with this lifestyle–a whole 20 pounds lighter! The added bonus is that I never considered it to be a “diet,” but instead a better, healthier way to eat. By taking the More Matters Pledge, I’m now eating a wider variety of fruit and veggies than I ever did before, have more energy and back at a more comfortable weight that I had previously had difficulty reaching.
I would encourage you to take a look at the More Matters Pledge–to add more fruit and veggies to your diet, to eat healthier or just to feel better like me! Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has plenty of great tips to show you how to follow through once you’ve taken the Pledge. Start today for a healthier tomorrow.
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We hear a lot about fiber these days. Cereals claiming to have more fiber than other brands, supplements you can take to add fiber to your diet and so on. Before you go out and buy the latest product boasting the best way to get your daily fiber requirement, do you even know why fiber is important for your body??
Fiber comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble and both forms are beneficial for you. Fiber helps to:
- Increase food volume without increasing calories (makes you feel “full” longer).
- Delay the absorption of glucose during the digestion process, which keeps blood sugar levels even.
- Lower total and LDL cholesterol, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Speed the passage of food through the digestive system (keeps us “regular”).
Fiber is found in plants, which is one more reason to make sure your diet is rich in fruit and vegetables! And, while you can get your fiber by drinking a fiber supplement, I find it much more pleasurable to eat a variety of delicious fruit and veggies that will provide the same beneficial health results. Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has created a list of the “Best of” fiber produce for you. In order to make the “high in fiber” list, fruit and vegetables must contain 5 grams or more (20% or more of the Daily Value per reference amount). Among this list, you’ll find many varieties of beans and apples–a snack favorite! The “good in fiber” list fruit and vegetables must contain 2.5 grams or more (10-19% of the Daily Value per reference amount). Bananas, broccoli, green beans and oranges are just a few fruit and veggies that made this list. When you think about the variety of produce that are plentiful in fiber, adding in whole grain breads and nuts for snacking, (also great sources) and it’s not hard to reach your daily requirement.
I’ve pulled a quick, easy, and flavorful, light meal from Fruits & Veggies–More Matters. This Veggie Bean Wrap Around is great as a hearty lunch or a light dinner paired with a cup of soup or a side salad. It’s got 12 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of protein and comes in at under 400 calories.
Try experimenting with fruit and vegetables for your fiber needs, I think you’ll find you’ll never go back to the supplement form again.
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