Three Eating Tips to Help You Get Ready for Summer
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Disclaimer: I’ve partnered with Planters Peanuts. As always, all opinions are my own. Please read my disclosure statement here.
With spring in full swing and summer just a few shorts weeks away, if you’re anything like me you’ve begun to clean up and organize everything from your overstuffed closets and drawers to your need to be sanitized gym bag or even your everyday purse or briefcase. We all know that when the spaces around us are relatively neat yet still functional, we feel more grounded and balanced. And hopefully that can empower us to make better choices when it comes to food and our lifestyle.
If part of your ‘get ready for summer’ plan includes finding ways to stay energized while nourishing and satisfying your body and mind, read on for some of my top strategies to help you get started at home, at work, or while you’re on the go this summer and beyond.
Celebrate the season. Eating a variety of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables not only can save you money, but it can help you boost your overall nutrient intake and meet your daily quote for fruits and veggies (~4.5 cups daily). Also, because of their high water and fiber content, vegetables especially make a great foundation for every meal (alongside lean beef or skinless poultry and whole grains like wild or brown rice). In addition, both fruits and vegetables make for tasty, filling snacks (think fresh berries over low-fat yogurt, grapes and apple slices served with small cheese cubes, or carrot sticks or sweet pepper strips lightly dipped in hummus or guacamole). When on the go, be sure to bring more sturdy whole fruits with peels (like oranges and pears) and be sure to pack more delicate berries and cut up fruit in smush-free containers and on ice to keep them safe. For great seasonal produce picks, check out these resources from the USDA and the Produce for Better Health Foundation.
Arm Yourself. We’ve all had that I’m-so-hungry-I-might-die moment that led us to the fast food drive through or nearest vending machine. Although making less than nutritious spontaneous food choices here and there won’t derail an otherwise balanced diet, too many instances of unpreparedness can, over time, take its toll. To prevent that from happening, it’s wise to stock up every week on easy to transport, non-perishable, delicious mix-and-match staple items. These can include:
Peanuts: One ounce (28 grams) of Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts packs in quite a nutritional punch: it provides 7 grams of protein and multiple essential vitamins and other nutrients including filling fiber and mostly heart-healthy fats (mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids). Although it also contains 150 milligrams of sodium, that amount falls below the FDA sodium requirement for the Nuts and Heart Disease Health Claim* (270 milligrams/28 grams). Besides providing key nutrients that keep your mouth and body satisfied, peanuts make a tasty solo snack but also work well when combined with other foods in a do-it-yourself snack pack.
Popcorn. Three cups of 100% whole-grain air-popped popcorn contains complex carbohydrates to keep you energized, fiber—particularly insoluble fiber, the kind that aids digestion. Naturally low in calories and fat and virtually free of sodium and sugar, popcorn also provides some protein, which, along with fiber, fills you up and stabilizes your blood sugar. Popcorn also provides small amounts of more than a dozen vitamins and minerals not to mention polyphenols that may benefit health through their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other properties. They may even act as probiotics and benefit the gut. If the air-popped variety doesn’t appeal to you, you can certainly pop the popcorn in some vegetable oil. You can also buy three-ingredient brands like Skinny Pop Popcorn (a personal favorite) or Angie’s Book Chicka Pop if you can’t make your own or sprinkle your popcorn with pepper, chili powder, cumin or other seasonings or even some coconut flakes.
Dried fruit. Although I don’t recommend eating dried fruit with abandon (it packs in a lot of calories in a relatively small portion), choosing dried pitted plums or prunes (preferably diced or bitesize) or other dried fruit made with no added sugar and keeping portion sizes to one or two tablespoons can add great flavor and mouthfeel to any snack pack. Although whole fruit packs in more fiber than its dried counterpart, dried fruit does provide nutrients like vitamin A and potassium depending on the kind you choose.
Other snack pack options can include whole-grain, high fiber, low sugar cereal, seeds, and other nuts.
Set Yourself Up for Success: It’s a good idea to plan your snack times ahead of time and to have at least some idea of what you will eat well before you reach for it. And if you prepared those snack packs ahead of time, you’re already one step ahead. It’s also important to take steps—literally—to avoid common traps (e.g. the cookies that stare at you from inside the glass cookie jar on your kitchen counter or the candy that calls your name from the bowl on your colleague’s desk top)—and not so common ones that might lead to eating when you’re not even hungry. A recent study at Google looked at snack consumption habits of its employees when snacks were closer to or farther from beverages. Researchers found that employees who used the beverage station closer to the snack station were more likely to take a snack when the beverage station closest to the snack station was used. The results suggest that employers and even families could reduce snack consumption easily, cheaply, and without backlash, by increasing the relative distance between the beverages and snacks. How’s that for some food for thought? And as always, I recommend keeping on hand a variety of tools like breath strips, a mini-bottle of mouthwash and even a portable toothbrush and toothpaste to use after meals and in-between when you’re just not hungry and need a little help to avoid inevitable temptation.
*Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as peanuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Disclaimer: I’ve partnered with Planters. As always, all opinions are my own. Please read my disclosure statement here.
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