Snack Attack!

Being a personal trainer and wellness coach, I work weird hours. Some days I work the morning shift and then have a client an hour or two later. Three days a week I work evenings, but sometimes that will turn into four or five days a week. One morning I’ll have a random appointment for an hour and then not work again until five hours later. Some days I even work at two different locations, one in the morning and one in the evening. Pretty much, my schedule has me all over the place. Add in the fact that I live at least half an hour away from either location I work at. Finally, consider that my Fiancé lives an hour away from me and the sorority I volunteer with is two hours away. Let’s just say, I do a lot of driving in a given week and need to have easy, healthy snacks with me at all times so I’m prepared no matter what my schedule throws my way. Today I am sharing some of my favorite snacks, as of recently, and why I love these items.

First and foremost, the snacks I have had the longest love affair with: string cheese and fresh fruit.

cheese and cuties

Fresh fruit is a no- brainer for me. I love fruit: berries, bananas, grapes, clementines, apples, more berries, etc. Fruit is fresh, sweet, juicy, and delicious. I especially like clementines because they are easy to open, (usually) have no seeds, and taste great. And, Guys, cheese. Need I say more? I love cheese, it is just so delicious. So, of course, low-fat string cheese is a must-have for my cheese cravings. It also supplies some protein and healthy fats, which are important for feeling full. Also, many studies have shown that people trying to lose weight are more successful when they eat at least three servings of low-fat dairy per day.

popcorn.jpgNext, popcorn. This is a snack I probably couldn’t exist without. Popcorn will definitely satisfy any of you out there who crave something salty and crunchy in the afternoon. I love white cheddar popcorn the best, thus my love of Smartfood Popcorn. Their white cheddar is possibly one of my favorite brands out there. The taste is spot on, but the popcorn isn’t totally caked with cheddar dust. Smartfood Popcorn is gluten-free and made with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and one of these little bags has only 80 calories, 1 gram of fiber, and 2 grams of protein. Recently, I stumbled across Buddha Bowl popcorn on an end cap at Hy-Vee. It was on sale and a fuel saver, which peaked my interest just as much as the fun flavors. This avocado oil popcorn has healthy fat from the avocado oil, 120 calories per serving, 5 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber, and is made with organic non-GMO ingredients. It is also gluten-free and vegan and the Himalayan Pink Salt gives it a wonderful salty flavor that is different from normal table salt.

granola bars

Granola bars are another quick, easy grab-and-go snack that has kept me sane over the years. I have a huge sweet tooth and sometimes just need that chocolate chip granola bar in the afternoon to make things right. Recently I picked up these Simply Eight chewy granola bars at Hy-Vee (also as a fuel saver item) and was pleasantly surprised that they tasted great. They contain no hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. They are also non-GMO, trans fat free, and made from 8 simple ingredients that make you feel good about putting them in your body. Nutrigrain bars are somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me.  They are definitely not clean, simple bars. They have many ingredients, some of which I can’t pronounce, which is usually a bad sign. I usually won’t reach for one of these as a first choice, but this week I was craving them so I allowed myself the treat. Now, as you’ll notice, we all have different standards for something being “healthy”. For some people, a Nutrigrain bar would be a much healthier option than what they normally eat, and I am definitely not discrediting that. Just for me and my lifestyle, I try to eat cleaner and lean toward items with less processing on a regular basis. They do have 3 grams of fiber per bar and 2 grams of protein with no high fructose corn syrup and whole grains, so they aren’t totally a lost cause. Remember, everyone has to make healthy fit their lifestyles to whatever degree they can. Don’t base your healthy and someone else’s healthy on the same principles because they probably won’t be an even match.

oatmeal.jpgClosely related to granola bars but slightly different, we have oatmeal. While instant oatmeal is not usually highly regarded by the health/exercise community, I found this brand of oatmeal years ago and have loved it ever since. Better Oats Revolution is the name of the brand and the flavor I love most is the Strawberries & Cream, although the Cinnamon Roll and Brown Sugar & Cinnamon ones are quite good as well. One pouch of this oatmeal has 130 calories, only 2 grams of fat, 12 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, and their oats include flaxseed in them. This is one packaged oatmeal I feel ok about eating and makes for a great addition to breakfast or a filling mid-morning snack.

fruit and seed mix

Trail mix has long been a great snack to get some healthy fats into one’s diet but it can be hard for people with nut allergies to indulge. For those with nut allergies there’s Enjoy Life No Nuts! Seed and Fruit Mix. While I do not have a nut allergy, I tried a sample size of this mix a while back and thought it was pretty good, so I picked up a bag when I saw it in the health section at Hy-Vee last week. With sunflower kernels, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and apricots, it is the perfect blend of salty and sweet. You barely even miss the nuts! This mix is made in a dedicated nut-free and gluten-free facility and is vegan.

yogurt

Second to last, yogurt. Of course, I used to be on the Chobani bandwagon when I first got in to Greek yogurt, but who can stand all that sugar? My go-to brand is Siggi’s. Their Icelandic style skyr yogurt is creamy and fruit flavored, without the sugary fruit syrup on the bottom of the cup. 1 container has 110 calories, 14 grams of protein, and 11 grams of sugar. I have liked mostly all their flavors: peach, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, and acai & mixed berry, with blueberry being my favorite. However, on a recent trip to Super Target, I discovered a new yogurt that I fell hard for.  Enter the Epic Seed yogurt. This yogurt has fruit and chia seeds on the bottom, is delicious, and helps with essential omegas that I don’t get enough of because I hate seafood. At 125 calories, 14 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 11 grams of sugar, they have definitely given Siggi’s a run for their money, at least in my home.

chickpeas.jpg

Finally, my newest snacking addiction: chickpeas. I have known about chickpea snacks for a while and even tried making my own a year or so ago, but they didn’t turn out crispy like you find in stores. Enter the Hy-Vee health market, which has been on fire lately with their great options, fuel saver deals, and sales. I found these organic Chickpeatos there and instantly fell in love, with one of the flavors anyway. These delectable chickpeas are roasted in olive oil and spiced with rosemary, a perfect combination for an Italian girl like myself. They have 6 grams of protein per serving, 5 grams of fiber, are gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO and a good source of iron. I also tried the Cinnamon Toast flavor which I expected to love (blame the sweet tooth), but was sadly disappointed (blame the stevia). The cinnamon flavor comes on strong, but the stevia gives them an odd after-taste that didn’t sit well with my taste buds. The other brand of chickpeas I have been eating is Biena, which I found at Target. They didn’t have very many flavors that I wanted to try, so I just got the signature Sea Salt flavor and was not disappointed. This brand is also gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO and contains an extra gram of fiber per serving.

Now, your turn! What are some of your favorite healthy snacks that keep you on track?

 

Take a Hike

Hi friends! Sorry for the somewhat quiet week. A quiet week online means a busy week in real life. I gained a pound the second week of the ActivTrax challenge and wasn’t particularly happy about it, but as you’ll see in my post about motivation, sometimes it’s not the easiest to stay on track. The weather in Iowa has been getting beautiful lately and I have been itching to get outside as much as possible. To end this weekend on a high note, today was spent planting new seeds and hiking! It just doesn’t get much better than that.

ledges1Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor activities, although there aren’t a ton of places to do it in Iowa. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I can count on the great outdoors to supply just that. Hiking is an activity that has brought my Fiancé and I together. We take every opportunity we can to enjoy this pass-time with each other. One of our favorite places to go is Ledges State Park in Madrid, Iowa. Since it is only a 30-45-minute drive from where he lives, it is an easy half-day activity that gives us a much needed break from everyday life. Almost every vacation we take includes hiking and finding special places to explore.

There are many reasons I like hiking. Probably my favorite aspect of hiking is all the amazing scenery and time with nature. However, there are also many health benefits to make you appreciate hiking:

  • It is a powerful cardio workout
  • It is a low-impact cardio workout that isn’t as hard on joints as high-impact things such as running
  • Hiking reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and colon cancer
  • Hiking helps lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Hiking is a weight-bearing activity. You have to hold your body weight up against gravity as well as often carrying things on your back while staying erect. These kinds of activities help protect against osteoporosis and boost bone density.
  • Hiking is good for many of your muscles including the glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and lower leg muscles.
  • Hiking is a great mood enhancer and is good at alleviating stress and anxiety

ledges2.jpg

Want to burn more calories on your hike? While hiking itself is a good way to burn calories, you can increase the burn by looking for hilly regions, even if they are only a 5-10% increase in elevation. Also, try loading your backpack up with a few more pounds. Carrying this extra weight will help you torch calories. Always remember to hike with a buddy for safety (and fun), stay hydrated, and work at your own pace or skill level. Have a wonderful week everyone and make sure you get out and enjoy some fitness in the great outdoors!