Weekly Challenge- Plan, purchase, prepare, portion and eat healthy snacks

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have synthesized years of research on adult weight management to form nutrition guidelines. One topic they've analyzed is the effect of regular meal and snack patterns on weight loss. "Several studies show that eating four to five times per day is associated with reduced or no obesity risk," The research also shows that the three squares a day could actually hurt your efforts to reach and/or maintain a healthy weight. "Eating less than three meals or snacks per day may increase the risk of obesity,"

Physiologically, it does make sense: "When you eat regularly throughout the day, your body knows that more food is on the way, and it's more likely to burn the calories you consume than store them as fat," Eating at regular intervals helps stabilize blood sugar and energy levels.

I’m sure you’ve had that experience when you realize it has been a long time since your last meal but you are rushed and busy and keep putting off finding something to eat. As you get hungrier and hungrier your resolve to choose healthy foods subsides and before you know it you can find yourself over eating unhealthy foods. It’s as if your blood sugar got too low for your brain to remember your goals so you just start shoveling in food (usually highly processed low nutrient dense junk food!)

I’d like you to take a good look at the time pattern of your healthy eating. Is there a time (mid-morning or mid-afternoon) when a healthy snack would be a wise choice? For me it is mid-afternoon. I eat lunch around noon and dinner at 6 and that is too long for me to go without eating. So I love to have a snack around 3.

OUR CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK IS TO SCHEDULE, PLAN, PREPARE AND EAT AT LEAST ONE HEALTHY SNACK A DAY.I’d like you to do your planning the evening before or morning of the day. And by preparation I mean you purchase, wash, measure or weigh, cut up and prepare your food at the beginning of your day. I want to make a sales pitch here for my food scale the Eat Smart Scale (which I bought on Amazon for $19.95). I use it multiple times a day.  
Just this morning I decided to eat some of my new favorite snack Crispy Crunch Chickpeas from the Good Bean (a new Costco treat). I could mindlessly eat a couple of cups of these yummies. But instead I weigh out and eat exactly one portion (1 ounce). And really it was enough to be satisfied. I love my scale for measuring everything: chips, crackers, nuts, meat. Many snack items are hard to count accurately (some are broken, they vary in size etc.) so I weigh them. When I’m really on my game I portion out the entire bag: weighing and bagging each snack size portion after weighing them out. So yes-plan it, prepare it and if you aren’t going to be home at snack time pack it. And don’t forget to enter it into myfitnesspal to make sure snacking doesn’t put you over your daily calorie budget.

Here are some ideas for healthy snacks:
1. Plain or flavored yogurt or cottage cheese with sliced fruit or granola
2.  Whole grain cereals or oatmeal, dry or with milk, yogurt, or raisins
3.  Trail mix or healthy granola bars and fruit bars (look for high fiber and no trans fats and watch the calorie count and serving size)
4.  ½ a Peanut butter sandwich with raspberry jam and cashews
5.   Quesadillas (melted cheese on whole wheat tortillas)
6. Popcorn, homemade or store bought (I am a huge fan of Smart Pop and Chicka Boom Popcorn and I eat it right out of my measuring cup)
8. Tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole or topped with shredded cheese and put under broiler
9. Whole grain muffins or breads, such as banana, pumpkin, corn, or zucchini (you can make a healthy batch and freeze them)
10.  Mini-whole grain bagels with cream cheese and sliced cucumbers
11. Hummus dip with whole grain pita or crackers or veggies
12.   Sliced avocados with wheat crackers
13.    Hard-boiled eggs
14.   Celery filled with cream cheese, Boursin cheese, or peanut butter
15.  Edamame in the shell, sprinkled lightly with sea salt
16.    Chickpeas or other beans, eaten with fingers or toothpicks
17.    Olives, pickles, canned artichokes or hearts of palm (In searching the menu board at the movies the other day for something I could eat I discovered they sold pickles! Wow what a full taste snack!)
18.   Frozen peas (not thawed!)
19.  Apple slices with cheese, peanut butter, peanut butter and chocolate chips, or honey
20.     Fruit Kabobs (Cut fruit on a stick and dipped in vanilla yogurt)
21.    Smoothies: combine fresh and/or frozen fruit and vegetables, fruit juice and yogurt or soy milk
22.     Dried fruit such as mango, apricots, raisins, plums (I love Costco’s dried coconut and dried Mango)
23.     Bananas and/or strawberries with semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate syrup
Note: I really like discovering snacks like my new dried chickpeas that can be left in my purse or glove compartment (and don’t melt) in case I need a snack but hadn’t planned for one.
24. Frozen mango, grapes, bananas (I love all fruit frozen and it seems to be more of a treat)

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