If you are a chronic nibbler, you may be eating more calories than you realize. A healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner can easily be undone by a bite here and a nibble there. It is easy to convince yourself that those bites don’t count, but the calories quickly add up. Below is a list of foods that are commonly nibbled when cooking at home, at the office, and at social gatherings.
One fried chicken wing: 150
One tablespoon of cookie dough: 120
One egg roll: 90-150
One-inch cube of cheddar cheese: 110
One tablespoon of peanut butter: 95
One pig in a blanket: 94
Five Almond M&Ms: 85
Two pieces of strawberry licorice: 80
One tablespoon of icing: 70
One tablespoon peanuts: 50
Ten jelly beans: 40
One cocktail meatball: 35
One pizza roll: 35
One tortilla chip with queso: 31
One potato chip with onion dip: 18
Be mindful of every bite and be sure to add each one to your food diary. If you can’t overcome the need to nibble, substitute lower calorie options that are also nutritious, such as a few grapes or berries.
Don’t become a victim of airport food courts and gas station food. While healthier options are becoming more available, nothing beats having your own stash of snacks to turn to. Take along foods with complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean protein that will keep you satisfied. Try roasted chickpeas, a healthy muffin, and some fruit.
Keep it light
Avoid packing more in your luggage than you can handle. Heavy shoulder bags and backpacks add stress to your back, neck, and shoulders which can leave you with aching muscles. Tugging on a large suitcase to get it out of the car or onto the airline scale puts you at risk for a pulled back muscle. When large, heavy bags are required, use correct lifting form
and a cart to transport them.
Shoes are essential
Your reason for travel will likely dictate your wardrobe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come equipped with athletic shoes. Always keep a pair in your carry-on and you won’t have any excuses for not taking a few laps around the airport during your layover.
Traveling well-hydrated is a challenge. No one wants to be running to the bathroom multiple times on a long trip, but the dehydrating effects of travel make it necessary to keep drinking. Determine your daily water requirement and stick with it, even when traveling. Also keep your fluid intake up the day or two before to ensure you are well hydrated before your trip begins.
Long lines, crowded airports and unexpected delays can make travel stressful, which can lead to emotional eating. The rule of “eat only when you are truly hungry” still applies on the road. When you feel stress building, take a second to close your laptop and set down your phone. Read a few pages of your novel or listen to a podcast, or grab a cup of soothing hot tea.
It’s tempting to abandon your workouts, but exercise will make you feel better both mentally and physically. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to your normal program. Exercising when traveling may mean you have to reduce the time or intensity. Go for a two-mile jog around downtown instead of your usual four-miler. Join a walking tour of the city, or ask your hotel if they partner with fitness centers in the area that offer classes to guests.
Designate one space in your kitchen that will hold the items you need for packing lunches. Have enough sealable containers that allow you to prepare lunches for at least two to three days in advance. Keep thermoses, forks, spoons, napkins, and lunch bags in this designated spot. This prevents wasted time searching for items, making lunch prep go quickly.
Schedule time on Sunday.
Packing healthy lunches takes time, but it is a task that is well worth the effort. Schedule one to two hours every Sunday to prepare healthy lunch foods for the week.
Chop fruit and vegetables and divide servings into sealable containers.
Children need fewer servings from each of the major food groups than adults, and they will often eat smaller portions to meet these needs. Pack only what they have time to eat during lunchtime and what they need to eat to feel full. Cut back on portions of salty snacks and desserts, and increase portions of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains to improve lunchtime nutrition.
Reduce processed foods.
Packaged snacks like chips, cookies, crackers, and lunch kits are quick and easy, but they are also loaded with calories, sodium, unhealthy fats, and sugar. These foods will leave your child with little energy to focus in the afternoon. Fresh fruits and vegetables, low-sugar dried fruits, seeds, whole grain breads, lean meats, and beans will provide nutrients that support health and learning.
Keep it simple with one-container meals.
If you are stuck in a rut of sandwiches with chips or crackers, consider switching to healthy one-container meals. Healthy fried rice, soups, stews, cold whole wheat pasta and grain salads, and taco salads are often reserved for dinner. Adding these foods to your lunch rotation allows you to cut out the unhealthy chips, crackers, deli meats and condiments that are often served with sandwiches.
Pockets and wraps for variety.
Add variety to sandwiches by turning them into wraps or rolls. Layer vegetables, lean meats, beans, cheeses and low-calorie sauces on whole wheat tortillas. Roll and cut into bite-size pieces. Layer ingredients inside two smaller tortillas and heat slightly to melt the cheese for a quesadilla. Stuff sandwich fillings inside whole wheat pita bread and cut into quarters.
Get creative with fruits and vegetables.
Make kabobs with a variety of chopped fresh fruits and vegetables. Fill a cored tomato with pasta salad or chicken salad. Make cucumber cups or boats and fill with hummus. Creating fun ways to serve healthy foods makes nutritious eating more enjoyable.
Keep foods hot and cold.
Whether you send hot or cold foods to school, ensuring that the food stays at the appropriate temperature is important for preventing foodborne illness. Invest in high quality ice packs, insulated lunch bags, and insulated thermoses. Freeze water bottles or 100 percent juice boxes to keep lunches cold. Ask if there is a refrigerator at school for storing lunches. Bacteria grows quickly in the Danger Zone, which is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold foods should be kept below this temperature range and hot foods above it.
There are many forms of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets. Some are prescribed by doctors to control conditions such as diabetes. Others put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies. It’s important to define what the eating plan entails to determine if it will benefit your long term health -- beyond a quick-fix for weight loss. Here are a few things to think about before cutting out carbs.
Carbohydrates do not “make you fat.”
Carbohydrates are macronutrients and the primary energy source for the body. Eating carbohydrates does not directly result in weight gain -- although a diet high in refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, processed grains) is likely to be high in calories. Large portions and excess calories are the culprit when it comes to weight gain, not carbohydrates.
High protein diets may stress the kidneys.
The byproducts produced when kidneys break down protein can be harmful when concentrations becomes too high in the bloodstream. That being said, in a study by the Indiana University School of Medicine, researchers found that after two years of eating a high protein, low carb diet no harm to kidney function was detected in healthy obese patients when compared to those eating a standard low-fat diet. But even researchers caution that those involved had no evidence of chronic kidney disease or other illness before adopting this eating style. High protein diets are strongly discouraged for anyone with reduced kidney function.
High protein diets can be high in saturated fat.
High protein diets that rely on animal products for increased protein can increase saturated fat intake. The American Heart Association advises limiting saturated fat intake to less than seven percent of total calories per day to reduce risk for heart disease. When increasing protein, it’s important to include plant-based sources. Beans, nuts, and seeds provide protein along with healthy fat, fiber, and important vitamins and minerals.
High protein diets may affect bone health.
Research shows that high protein diets, especially those high in meat products, can increase acid levels in the body. In high acid conditions, calcium from the bone breaks down to help neutralize the acid which weakens the bones over time. This is especially concerning for postmenopausal women who may already be experiencing accelerated bone loss due to drops in estrogen levels.
Low carbohydrate diets can be low in micronutrients.
When restricting carbohydrate intake so much that it reduces or eliminates your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you are at an increased risk for nutrient deficiencies. These foods contain valuable vitamins and minerals necessary for health. They also contain unique phytonutrients that cannot be found from other sources (including supplements).
Low carbohydrate diets can be low in fiber.
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are the best sources for fiber. Fiber improves digestive health, lowers blood cholesterol, and helps to control blood sugar. Cutting out foods rich in fiber causes you to miss out on these healthy benefits. Recommended fiber intake is about 25 grams per day. It is nearly impossible to consume this amount of fiber when cutting out these naturally fiber-rich foods.
There is no need to feel deprived and hungry when you are trying to lose weight. Understanding more about the energy density of the foods you eat will help you reach your goals while feeling full and satisfied.
What does energy density mean?
The energy provided by food is measured in calories. Energy density is the amount of calories per gram of a food. This can be calculated using the following equation:
Energy Density = calories per serving / weight of serving in grams
A food with a lower energy density has fewer calories per gram. As a general rule, foods with more water content and fiber have a lower energy density because these two components add weight without excess calories. A good example of this is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One and a half fresh oranges has about 100 calories, and three pretzel rods also have 100 calories. The oranges weigh 200 grams and the pretzels weigh 25 grams, so the oranges have a lower energy density than the pretzels.
How does energy density affect weight loss?
Consuming low energy density foods is a strategy to feel full while reducing calories for weight loss. Research shows that we consume about the same weight of food each day, but not the same amount of calories. You can lower your calorie intake without reducing the weight of food you eat. Studies show that people can lose weight without feeling deprived if foods with lower energy density are used.
One study reported that subjects who were given a low energy density salad before a meal consumed fewer calories at the meal, but reported feeling as full as those who ate no salad or who ate a higher energy density salad.
Do I need to track energy density?
Tracking calories is one way of keeping energy density in check. Knowing that foods with more water and fiber are less energy dense is the first step to making smart choices. There is no need to calculate energy density for every food. Simply increase low energy density foods (fruits and vegetables) and decrease high energy density foods (fast food, processed snack foods, baked goods).
The equation becomes helpful when you are trying to choose between foods that both offer nutritional benefits. For example, raisins and grapes fit into a healthy diet, but fresh grapes are less energy dense than raisins.
What is the difference between energy density and nutrient density?
Nutrient density refers to the amount macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals in a food. Regardless of weight goals, nutrient dense foods are important for health. Fortunately, most foods with a low energy density have a high nutrient density, but it is important to think about your food choices. For example, celery has a low energy density, and you can eat a lot for very few calories. Unfortunately, celery does not provide many of the nutrients the body needs for health. Choosing a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, and low-fat dairy supports a low energy density diet while also being nutrient dense.
Tips for lowering energy density.
Mix vegetables into your favorite soups, stews, and casseroles to lower the energy density of the whole dish. Try using shredded summer squash, diced carrots, tomatoes, and dark leafy greens.
Swap crackers, pretzels, and chips with carrot sticks and bell pepper strips to serve with your favorite bean dip.
Take fruit and vegetables with you for snacks. This will help you avoid the temptation of turning to the vending machine for processed foods when hunger hits.
Choose fresh fruits over dried options. Both have fiber, but the water content of the fresh varieties lowers the energy density.