Did you know that by eating just 100 calories over your needs per day, you can gain 10 pounds in a year?
That is why snacking can be dangerous– because it can easily add extra calories to your day and often times not a whole lot of nutrition if your’e not eating the right kind of snacks. But, if done properly, snacking can actually be a healthy part of your diet and help you lose or maintain your weight.
If you’re just eating 3 times a day you may end up going too long between meals. This can cause you to become low on energy and become overly hungry and overeat during your meals– leading to weight gain. So for many people, it is important to eat between meals as long as you can try to follow these three important guidelines:
- Eat a snack in between meals but when you’re NOT hungry. When you try to get a snack when you are hungry, you can end up over eating and just consume more calories in the day than you need, instead of trying to control hunger and intake throughout the day.
- Use your snacks as a way to meet some nutritional gaps from your meals. Things like nuts, yogurt, fruits are great snacks because they are highly nutritious and filling, and often helps fill vitamin and mineral gaps from your meals.
- Try to choose snacks that blend complex carbohydrates with protein. These types of snacks are both nutritious and satiating and will help keep your caloric intake under control throughout the day.
Here’s a snack idea that I LOVE because it’s nutritious, satiating, and most importantly—it tastes good!
- 18 Multiseed Brown Rice Mini crackers from Trader Joe’s (see packaging below)
- 1/2 Persian Cucumber (cut in slices or sticks)
- 2 TBS. Regular Hummus
Nutrition Facts: Calories: 120 ; Protein 3 g ; Fat 4 g ; 17 g carbs (mostly complex)
These crackers are great because they’re made with brown rice flour and flax seeds so are a good source of omega-3 Fatty acids and b-vitamins. They’re also easy to take on the go or to work and you can eat up to 35 of them for about 100 calories. For a more satiating snack that will keep you on track the rest of the day, I like eating half the serving size of the crackers (about 18) and add something with a bit of protein like the hummus or low-fat string cheese.
Happy “healthy” snacking!
Why liquid calories are different…
Ever heard that a calorie is a calorie and that weight loss/gain is simply a matter of calories in versus calories out? Well, while that theoretically is true, the reality is that our bodies process calories from different sources differently, and liquid calories are no exception. The mechanisms for controlling thirst and hunger differ in our bodies. So while liquid calories may quench our thirst, they do very little when it comes to curbing our hunger.
One of the reasons liquid calories act differently is because they travel faster through our intestinal tract which affects the nutrient absorption rate leading to altered effects on satiety hormones. What does this mean? Basically that 100 calories from a soda will not curb your hunger as well as 100 calories from something like an apple or other solid foods in general.
Ok but why is this important?
- Liquid calories add up fast and don’t keep you full! A 12 oz of cola contains 140 calories; A 12 oz. latte made with whole milk contains 180 calories; 16 oz. ice cream milkshake has 625 calories. But because they don’t provide the same satiety as solid calories, you usually just end up consuming more calories than you need. (Remember that every 3,500 calories eaten above your needs = 1 pound of fat gained)
- Liquid calories can lead to increased weight gain. A recent Harvard Nurse’s Health study of more than 50,000 women over eight years found that those who increased their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas or fruit punch, from one per week to one or more per day consumed an average of 358 extra calories per day and gained a significant amount of weight. And vice versa, the women who reduced their intake cut their calories by an average of 319 and gained less weight.
- Most liquid calories are high in sugar!
Estimated Sugar Content
|Soda (8 oz)
|Fruit Smoothie (10 oz)
|Sports Drinks (8 oz)
|Fruit Juice (8 oz)
|Energy Drinks (12 oz)
I know when you’re working all day or on the go, you need something sweet and caffeinated right? Grabbing a latte or soda is just the easy thing to do. But if you want to avoid liquid calories creeping up on you, here’s a few ideas for healthy alternatives or substitutions to try in situations like that:
- Instead of soda, try sparkling water and squeeze a slice of lemon, lime, an orange, or even add a hint of fruit juice for a lower calorie, less sugar sweet alternative. Added bonus, sparkling water does not contain phosphoric acid like most sodas which is bad for your bones.
- Instead of a normal latte, use soy or non-fat milk instead for a lower calorie drink or just coffee or tea and go easy on the sugar or sweetener.
- If you like drinking alcoholic cocktails, try ordering a glass of wine or lite beer instead for a lower calorie alcoholic beverage
- When it comes to smoothies, just order the smallest portion to keep calories under control. Usually smoothies come in 16oz servings or more so go for the half portions.
- And remember, water is always your best option to quench your thirst. Your body needs 8-10 glasses a day!
So next time you’re debating whether that drink is worth it, think twice before you drink those liquid calories =)
Tips to Prevent Weight Gain during the Holidays:
With the holiday season right around the corner, I’m sure most of us are worried about gaining a few extra pounds. With Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, Eid, Diwali, New Year’s, or whatever holidays your celebrate this time of year, all happening back to back, the typical American gains 3-5 pounds or more per year this season.
Since obesity and associated chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, are a growing epidemic in this country, it’s important to maintain, or for many to lose weight and not gain any extra pounds this holiday season.
While no one wants to gain weight, many of us do. So how can we prevent it?
Well let’s understand why it’s SO easy to gain the weight during the holidays. For every 3500 extra calories your body consumes, you gain 1 extra pound. Now if you break this down by day, that’s only eating 500 extra calories per day to gain 1 whole pound a week. With lattes that range from 400-800 calories and hidden calories when eating out, to all the extra food available at this time, you can imagine how easy it is to eat only 500 extra calories than your body needs per day and put on the weight fast.
So keep that in mind this holiday season and also try to follow these few tips to help keep the extra pounds off:
- Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Without an adequate breakfast, your whole day can get thrown off. You become ravenously hungry causing you to overeat at meals, you can experience a loss of lean body mass or muscle which ultimately lowers your metabolism, and you often experience more emotional eating where you constantly binge more throughout the day. So make sure you eat breakfast everyday this holiday season, and while you’re at it, make sure it’s rich in protein and fiber. Protein and fiber take longer to digest and thus helps to keep you full longer. Try Greek Yogurt with berries and granola, egg white omelet with whole wheat toast, whole grain cereal with milk, fruit, and pieces of low fat string cheese.
- Drink lots of water. Studies show you need at least 8 cups of water a day, but the timing is also important. Make sure to drink a glass of water before and during meals during the holidays. This helps keep you fuller and can prevent overeating that often occurs given the abundance of food available this season.
- Carry some healthy snacks with you to eat before you attend a holiday function. I know many people think that you should starve yourself before going to a holiday function because you know you will eat a lot at the party, but to prevent the extra weight gain, it’s wise to have a small snack before you arrive at the party. Again, this will help curb your appetite and prevent you from eating too much. I always like pairing a healthy carb with some protein for the best satiety. Try an apple with some peanut butter, baby carrots with hummus, Greek yogurt with some berries, or a protein bar for something you can grab on the go.
- If you’re attending a potluck function, try to bring something healthy that you know will be a good option for you to eat. Maybe a veggie platter, a fruit salad, or a simple salad. If you’re the host for the night, try making a few healthy substitutions when cooking. Using cooking spray instead of oil or butter is a good strategy, or using more herbs and spices to flavor your foods rather than excess salt or fats. Also, try to incorporate some whole grains in the meal. Try making a quinoa side dish, a whole wheat pasta salad, or make or buy whole wheat rolls.
- Save room for exercising! I know time is scarce during the holidays, but making sure you are burning calories through exercise will allow you to have some buffer room with your food intake to prevent the extra weight gain. Just 30 minutes a day of cardio will help prevent the extra weight gain, among other benefits to your health. Also be creative with your exercise. If you don’t have time to make it to the gym, try jogging, walking, biking, exercising at home, taking the stairs at work, or joining a sports team to keep you exercising regularly.