So someone just gave me the nickname “Thicka Chicka” and while it is totally meant to be a cute “pet name,” it lets me know the extra pounds are noticeable and serves as a source of motivation to keep my weight loss goals on my mind.
And when it comes to weight loss, it’s all about mastering the perfect mix of diet and exercise.
You can run the steps like Rocky and shake more Zumba booty than a Latin dance queen, but if you’re not eating smart, it’s all a big waste of time.
Personal trainers and nutritionists have drilled it into our heads about eating three small meals and two snacks daily, but that sometimes can be a tricky task.
It’s easier for me when I have the experts take out the “guess work” of portion sizes, calorie, carb and protein counting—but that can get costly. Sometimes I try to shop for my own “healthy” meals, but let’s face it—some of those labels are confusing and misleading.
I find that when I buy my ready- made meals from “My Fit Foods” the pounds melt off, but when my funds get low and I am left to rustle my own healthy grub, I slip up, fall off the wagon and inadvertently fasten my seat belt for yet another ride on my diet rollercoaster.
So for us to continue to be successful when an expert is not “spoon feeding” us what to do, we must learn how to choose meals for ourselves and know what we should and should not eat.
We all know about the salmon, chicken breast, steam vegetables and other recommendations for mealtime, but snacks are a whole other ballgame.
Experts say snacking properly is one of the key factors in losing weight. In fact, NOT snacking is actually the wrong thing to do. Some people may not be losing weight because they don’t snack – like me, I just don’t like feeding my face all day.
Others are snacking “the wrong way.” There are some people who “snack lightly” throughout the day, but yet seem to not lose a pound, then there are others who gorge themselves on whatever is offered on the snack wagon, but still maintain their weight.
One of my best friends Nakita is the exact same size WE were as teens. See how I said WE? We used to wear the exact size clothing, had only one letter differentiating our first names and dressed and looked so much alike, we were called the “Bopsy twins.” We both now have two children, but that is where our grownup similarities end. She can eat WHATEVER she wants, not exercise and is still a size 6, while I can work out constantly and only SMELL half the food she eats, but wear double the size in pants. (Yes, “Thicka Chicka” is a size 12) So, what gives?
Some of us must work on or maintain our weight the same as we work or maintain a job. It’s that serious. And snacking properly is a key component in losing weight.
But to be real, I don’t think many realize what exactly is “a snack” and how much do you eat?
So, when I ran across this article on BlackDoctor.org that laid out the best five healthy snacks, I couldn’t resist sharing.
Why Is Snacking So Important?
Think about this – our bodies are evolved to graze; when food gets scarce, we start to retain fat as a way of protecting ourselves from famine…and that’s exactly what happens when you don’t snack between meals. Basically, your body doesn’t know where its next meal is coming from, so it’s afraid to shed the extra pounds. What’s worse is that, when you do finally allow yourself to eat a meal, you may end up eating more than you need to because you’re famished.
That’s why snacking is so important: In fact, when Penn State researchers fed subjects just one humble apple before mealtime, the subjects consumed nearly 190 fewer calories.
But…exactly what should you be snacking on?
While many African Americans are lactose intolerant, quite a few have discovered that certain types of dairy, including yogurt, are a little gentler to their digestive system. Yogurt is teeming with calcium, which promotes muscle growth; and probiotic bacteria, which bolsters your immune system. What’s more, study participants who ate yogurt daily lost 81 percent more belly fat than those who didn’t, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity. Want to make it even healthier? Add a few berries along with some nuts or seeds.
Fage Total 2% Plain Greek Yogurt (7 oz. container)
4 g fat (3 g saturated)
17 g protein
8 g sugars
Dannon Fruit on the Bottom (6 oz. container)
1.5 g fat (1 g saturated)
6 g protein
26 g sugars
Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. How about adding a handful to your daily routine?
Almonds are an excellent source of heart-healthy monosaturated fats and pound for pound, a better source of protein than eggs. Research showed that people who frequently eat nuts are less likely to gain weight. Just be sure to eat them whole: A study from the Journal of Nutrition found that the flavonoids in the skin combine with the vitamin E in the nut to double the antioxidant dose.
A small bowl of cereal is great, but are you really reading the labels? With all the extra added ingredients and sweeteners in cereal, choosing the right cereal can literally make you go “coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs.”
Some cereals, like the granola below, look healthy but actually have as much sugar as a candy bar. Kashi’s GoLean lives up to its healthy moniker. This bowl has twice as much fiber as an apple, three times as much protein as a large egg, and even with milk, manages to keep the calorie load below 200 per bowl.
Dip & Veggies
This can be a tricky treat, most people think veggies and dip is a safe bet – WRONG! That ranch and bleu cheese we love can sabotage an entire day of healthy eating. Try some hummus instead.
Hummus is composed primarily of chickpeas, which have been shown to help regulate blood sugar—probably due to their salutary balance of protein and fiber. Most of that fiber is insoluble, so it promotes colon health. One study even found that people who added chickpeas to their diet ended up taking in fewer total calories. Add to that a few baby carrots and you get the added benefit of vision-preserving, skin-soothing beta-carotene.
Spelt is a grain related to wheat that packs more fiber and protein—and at 6 calories per pretzel; the dietary bang for your buck is undeniable. Over-saltiness is always a concern with pretzels, but the sodium level in this snack is mild. Try pairing some Newman’s Own Organics Spelt Pretzels with a hunk of cheddar to rope even more protein into your snack break.
Always remember that the true keys to snacking right is to find snacks that are low in sugar and high in protein…and protein…and to make sure you’re not eating for the wrong reasons (i.e. bored, stressed, tired, etc.)
Just a little extra side note to all you “healthy snackers” out there: Remember to always read the label for what is considered a “serving size.” Eating an entire bag of low-fat chips is not in the diet plan, when the bag says a serving size is only 10 chips. I made that mistake many times.
For more information and to see a list of the best and worst snacks in each category, go to BlackDoctor.org.