Keep on Track with your Healthy Diet with these Ideas for Snacks
It can be very difficult to keep on track with your healthy diet and often the biggest blow-out is caused by the snacks we eat. Some snacks have as many calories as a full meal and the food is often high in salt, saturated fat and sugar. Before you know it, you are hungry again and reaching for another packet of chips. This post will give you some healthy snack ideas that are easy to prepare.
I have put together a list of snacks which are filling, nutritious and healthy. Snacking on each of these options will improve your diet, rather than detract from it.
One of my biggest concerns with my weight was my waist circumference. My waist measured 109cm (42 inches) when I started on my journey. This put me at a much higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. An ideal waist measurement for women is 88cm (35 inches) or less, and men is 102cm (40 inches) or less. Anything above this is classed as abdominal obesity.
All the extra weight I was carrying was fat, which was surrounding all my vital organs like my heart, liver and pancreas. I had been taking tablets for high blood pressure for a couple of years, and for my cholesterol for at least 6 years, so my body was already showing signs of issues caused by this excess fat around my abdomen.
According to research, reducing the size of your waist to a healthy size will increase your longevity as well as reduce your risk for other diseases, such as dislipidemia, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Even if you are relatively smaller everywhere else on your body, the increased weight around your waist will still lead to other health problems.
How to Measure Your Waist Size
Along with wanting to lose weight, I was desperate to reduce the size of my waist to prevent any other health issues. So I started measuring my waist, hips, bust, thighs and upper arms along with weighing myself 2 – 3 times a week. I used a Body Fat Calculator to assess this. My body fat percentage a year ago was 43.3% which is very high, and now it is around 28% and in the healthy range for my age.
I have found that taking those measurements is more incentive to lose weight than just weighing on the scales alone is. I can also see that some days I’m quite bloated with my waist ranging between 84cm on a good day to 88cm on a bad day! The “bad day” is usually from working night shifts or having a day or two of eating and drinking unhealthy food – but we all need a day or two like that occasionally.
Image credit for feature photo: Pixabay on Pexel
If you are interested in starting to do the same measurements, there’s a great website called Calculator.net that has a number of health and fitness calculators that are easy to use, including a Body Fat Calculator. If you don’t want to go to that much trouble, try writing down your waist measurement and weight once or twice a week.
The way your clothes fit will also be a good way to gauge whether you’re losing weight off your waist. I’ve had to totally replace my whole wardrobe twice in the last year, down to my underwear! It’s so rewarding to be able to see the results, and know that I’ve done a lot to improve my health by reducing my waist size.
Cut out all sugar, especially drinks that have been sweetened. A high intake of sugar leads to the liver getting overloaded, resulting in insulin resistance. Because your body can’t cope with so much sugar (fructose) and stores it as fat in your abdomen and liver.
Increase your protein intake, because this reduces cravings and boosts your metabolism. High quality protein is important, such as that found in eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, seafood, meat and high quality protein supplements (whey powder).
Cut carbohydrates, particularly highly refined ones found in cakes, sweets and white bread. Some people cut carbs drastically leading to ketosis (the popular keto diet) which reduces your appetite and leads to rapid weight loss. My brother has done really well on this diet, while I found just dropping all the rubbish like lollies, cakes, muffins etc. was enough for me to be effective. I find that if I have any of those foods now I get a migraine so that just proves to me that this type of food is bad for my health.
Eat food high in fibre, particularly vegetables. This helps to fill you up, and aids digestion. One of the most effective steps I took was to amp up my vegetable intake, replacing a lot of the carbs with vegetables. Vegetables contain plenty of vitamins and minerals which also help our health and wellbeing. Other food sources of fibre include fruit, cereals and legumes. Adding a fibre supplement like Metamucil would be effective as well.
Exercise, in particular aerobic exercise such as walking, running, swimming and cycling. Spot exercises like sit-ups do not work! Improving your core muscle strength will help you overall but it might not necessarily reduce your waist size unless you are doing aerobic exercise. I can’t do heavy exercise but I have found that regular walking has been effective for me.
Count your calories using a macro counter. I use an App on my phone to record everything I eat, and from there I can see my macros (percentage of protein, carbs and fat), and calorie intake. I try to keep to between 1500 – 1800 Kcal per day, and make sure my calories in is lower than my calories out. I still track this every day even though my weight has been stable for months because I find it helps me stay accountable to my health goals.
Another benefit of reducing your waist size is that clothes fit better! I always found it really hard to find clothes that fitted my apple shaped body and was always trying to hide my belly with tunics etc. It’s now so much easier to find clothes that fit, and my body has a better figure (not quite an hourglass shape though!)
This is the salad recipe that I have used many times over. It is delicious, versatile and healthy. The basis for it is just three ingredients, then you can customise it to suit your taste.
60g baby spinach ( or approx. 2 cups, or half a bag of spinach from the supermarket
250g cherry tomatoes (or two large tomatoes cut up)
1/2 continental cucumber (or 1 Lebanese cucumber)
Rinse spinach in a colander. Break off stems and remove leaves that are blemished. Wash tomatoes and add to spinach. Cut up the cucumber and add to spinach. Place in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last about 4 days.
30 kCalories per serving, total recipe 90 kCalories. Serves 3 for mains, 5 for side dish. 2g Protein, 6g Carbohydrate, 0g fat
feta cheese or shredded low fat tasty cheese (see note at bottom of recipe)
roast baby beetroot, skinned and diced
nuts, e.g. pine nuts, sliced almonds, pistachios
seeds, e.g. quinoa, flax seed, sunflower seeds
dressings, e.g. vinaigrette, Greek or Italian salad dressing, low fat mayonnaise
lean protein – grilled chicken breast, low fat ham or bacon (grilled), tin of tuna in low fat sauce, boiled egg
fruit, e.g. mango, apple, pear, dried fruit such as apricots or cranberries
herbs, e.g. parsley, chives, mint
My favourite combinations
Basic recipe plus:
olives, feta cheese and Greek dressing
chicken breast, avocado, snow peas
Feta cheese, baby beetroot, celery
cos lettuce, boiled egg, low fat mayonnaise
small can of tuna in sun-dried tomato and onion (John West brand, 99% fat free)
Meal Prep Idea
Make the basic salad, divide into 3 portions. Each portion is your lunch. Take the extras to work separately and add just before you eat it, then the salad won’t go limp and soggy.
My healthy lifestyle blog has been my biggest achievement this year (apart from losing 17kg!). I’ve really enjoyed writing about a topic that I’m passionate about. The hardest part is the self promotion which goes against my introverted nature but it’s vital to gain followers if I want people to read my articles.
Thanks to everyone who has read, followed, liked and shared my posts across WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter! I really appreciate your support and all the comments, likes and shares. It keeps me motivated to write more.
This time of year is commonly used to set some New Years’ Resolutions. We start the new year afresh with lofty plans to lose weight, get fit and give up smoking or other vices. But often these plans go out the window by the end of January, leaving us feeling defeated and a failure. How do we avoid this?
Set Goals that are Attainable
Many goals and resolutions fail because they are unrealistic, too broad, and unattainable. Let’s look at the goal “to lose weight” for example. Lose how much weight? By when – next week, next month, next year? How will you achieve it? None of those questions are answered in the broad statement “I will lose weight”. You need a plan, and to set a goal that is realistic.
An unrealistic goal would be to lose 20kg by March. You would be likely to start with enthusiasm, go on a fad diet and starve yourself. It will fail because diet regimes that lose weight quickly are too restrictive, cutting out important nutrients and are unable to be sustained long term. You’ll feel deprived, have cravings, and will want to “cheat” on your diet. As soon as you stop dieting, the weight will pile back on because your body has slowed its metabolism down to cope with the reduced number of calories. As soon as you plateau or fail to lose weight you’ll give up because it’s setting you up for failure by being too hard to stick to. This can be avoided if you set realistic goals.
Unattainable vs. Attainable
How I will achieve it
lose 20 kg by March
lose 3kg by March then reassess goal
Use a smaller plate, cut out sugar in drinks, eat fruit instead of a muffin at morning tea
Get fit by walking 5km every day
Start by walking 2km daily and build it up to 5km by March
Walk on my lunch break, park my car further away
Lose 20cm off my waist
Lose 3cm off my waist by Easter then reassess goal
Eat a salad at lunch instead of pasta, use the stairs at work instead of the lift
Join a gym
Sign up for a trial at a gym with no ongoing commitment
Go to a gym at least 3 times to see if it’s the right one for me before committing to it
Give up smoking
Cut down over 2 weeks then give up smoking
Use nicotine replacement therapy, sign up to a Quit support service
Unattainable Goals vs Attainable Goals
The difference between unattainable goals and attainable goals is that you are cutting the goals down to achievable amounts, setting time frames, and planning out exactly how you will achieve them. You are setting yourself up to succeed by not biting off more than you can chew.
When I first started on the Get Healthy Program the amount of weight I needed to lose seemed like an unachievable goal. I was doubtful of being able to not only lose 10 or more kilograms, but also lose 10cm or more off my waist. My confidence was low, and I was skeptical of the program because I hadn’t succeeded on any program in the past. I could usually lose the weight easily but I always felt restricted on a diet and as soon as I went off it I packed the weight back on. My coach helped me to set small, realistic goals to achieve and as I reached each milestone, my confidence grew. I kept moving the goal posts and slowly I lost 5kg, 10kg, 15kg … eventually 17kg and it’s stayed off for over 6 months now.
More important to me was the goal of losing centimeters off my waist. My waist circumference was 105cm when I started which would predispose me to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. This concerned me more than anything. My goal was to get down to 88cm which would put me in a much healthier range but I was eventually to lose 20cm! By changing my diet to include more vegetables and less red meat and sugary food, I was able to achieve my goal.
Realistic goals are ones you break down into smaller components. Start with small goals and as you reach them, set bigger goals. Your confidence will grow with each milestone, setting you up for success. Because you’re starting with small changes to your habits, you’re likely to incorporate them into your daily lifestyle. For example, parking further away and taking the stairs are easy ways to increase your step count whereas running 5km per day or joining a gym would be harder to incorporate into your life and your enthusiasm may soon die out with the sudden burst of energy when they cause muscle aches and pains.
Define your success. What is the end goal and how will you know when you are there? My success was getting down to the weight that I am, and maintaining that weightloss for 6 months or more. I will stay within 3 kg of this weight and not go up in size in my clothes. What is your definition of success and how will you achieve it in 2020? It’s a new decade and a great starting point to setting some goals for yourself that are achievable.
Welcome to my new followers! I feel very humbled and privileged that you all have responded so positively to my blog. The urge to start this was because I succeeded in losing weight and keeping it off. The difference this time is that my weight didn’t bounce straight back to where it was when I completed the program I was on. I’ve always been interested in promoting a healthy lifestyle through my nursing career, but now I want to help other people towards health through this medium.
Why do I feel weird when people compliment me on my weight loss? I don’t like getting all that attention, but people are constantly telling me I’ve lost more weight (even though I’ve been pretty steady for the last few months). They ask how I did it and probably expect me to name a fad diet or gastric bypass or something. When I told them I count calories and cut my portions down they seem disappointed! I think people want to know that there is a foolproof way, or an easy way to lose weight, but fad diets especially elimination diets, aren’t successful in the long run because you start craving all the things you can’t have. Whenever I’ve tried a “diet” such as Weight Watchers or Lite n Easy, I’ve been able to lose the weight easily enough but I’ve always craved things and felt really restricted. So as soon as I stop the diet I put on all the weight plus more!
The program taught me how to choose food that is lower in calories while being nutritious and filling. This new way allows me to choose my own food so I don’t have to eat food I don’t like. I don’t restrict myself to eating only low fat, low carb, low cal or any other thing and I don’t give up whole food groups like a lot of diets do. I automatically pick food that fills me up and doesn’t have too many calories, like a big salad. But in that salad I put really nice extras like feta cheese, olives, snow peas and roast beetroot, so that it’s interesting to my palate. The beauty of it is that you can choose what you like so if you don’t like olives but you love nuts, you can swap them out.
A few weekends ago I packed up a large box of clothes that I no longer fit. Some of them are brand new because I had bought a lot of clothes thinking I would get to a certain weight and that would be it, but I just kept on losing weight. I’ve gone down about 3 sizes. It starts to get expensive when you have to replace your whole wardrobe twice in a year! But still, I am proud of what I’ve achieved and I do feel much better at this weight. I feel more like my old self. I was painfully thin as a child and didn’t start to gain weight until after having children in my mid 20’s. I feel like I’m at a good weight for me now, in the healthy range for my age, and I plan to stay at this weight now.
Because I have had a history of yo-yo weight since I was in my 20’s, it is now my goal to help other people to achieve the success I have had. That is the drive behind me starting this blog, so that I can help other people to live a healthy lifestyle in their 40’s, 50’s and beyond. It is not a “diet”, but it is a change towards living your best life with a little advice on how to achieve it. I don’t have all the answers, but I may be able to help in some way. I will be giving tips on what worked for me in upcoming blog posts.
What I won’t be able to help you with is information on beauty products, anti aging treatments such as fillers and injectables, and supplements designed for weight loss. I’m no expert on fitness and exercise regimes either. There are lots of other people who are! As I have said before, I did not go to a gym. My sole exercise is walking the dogs nearly every day.
Once again, thank you for reading my blog. If you would like information on anything specific, please comment, and share this post as well!
One of the hardest times to keep on track with our health goals is during the “silly season” – Christmas and New Year, up to Australia Day at the end of January and even up to Easter. In the US and Canada, Thanksgiving Day in November is the start of the silly season. Summer in the Southern Hemisphere is a time of beach, school holidays, barbecues and celebration, while winter in the Northern Hemisphere is a time for hearty meals, staying indoors in front of the fire and eggnog! It has to be the most challenging time of the year for people trying to keep to their health goals.
If you are having a celebratory meal or gathering of any kind, inevitably the menu includes food that is high in calories and alcohol, and wouldn’t be normally in your day to day diet. Some suggestions to deal with these situations are:
Take your own platter with healthy food to share. This is my number one way of dealing with these situations! Try using my recipes for a savoury and sweet grazing platter – or combine both for a really interesting platter
Eat a small portion of the food on offer
Drink water in between each alcoholic drink
Take your own beverages
If you don’t want to drink alcohol but feel pressured to, order a drink that looks like an alcoholic drink e.g. mocktail, lemon lime and bitters or soda water. I’m a fan of Kombucha which is really refreshing and doesn’t include many calories.
Drink less high calorie alcoholic drinks like a wine spritzer or vodka and soda water. There are low carbohydrate beers and diet mixers as well
Order a salad with the dressing on the side. Salads are often covered in dressing in restaurants and that is where all the calories are
Many restaurants list how many calories or kilojoules are in their food. Some of them even publish it online so you can research the venue before you go.
Don’t go to an event with an empty stomach
Don’t order a 3 course meal. Just a main meal is usually ample. My husband and I share an appetiser or dessert if we really feel like another course
Don’t stand near the buffet! Take a small plateful and walk away
Space out your meal. Give your body time to feel full. Only eat til you start to feel the signals that you’ve had enough
Having said that, if I know that I’m about to blow my calorie allowance for the day, I plan for it advance and eat lightly for the rest of the day. A small breakfast and a salad for lunch counterbalances a blow-out for tea.
Learn to be assertive and say “no thank you” when offered food. This was always a challenge to me but I’m getting better at asserting myself
Accept that some situations are going to be out of your control. If you’re eating to plan during the rest of the week a day of overeating is not going to affect you long term.
Enjoy that blow-out meal! You deserve it.
Don’t neglect your exercise regime during holiday periods. You will feel so much better if you exercise on days that you’re consuming a large number of calories. Even a walk in the morning before an event will help
Try to make celebrations around activities rather than just feasting and getting drunk. Do something active like a picnic at the beach or a bush-walk. Even active party games can take the focus off eating and drinking. Have a game of cricket after Christmas lunch!
If my readers have some other solutions, please share them in the comments. I would love to know how you deal with social events and keeping track of your health goals
When starting out on your journey of self improvement, whether it is for weight loss, improving fitness, learning to cook or another healthy lifestyle choice, reach out for the support of others. The reason why I was able to succeed in losing 17kg this time as apposed to all the other times I’ve tried, is because I had support. Firstly, I was part of a program that matched me up with a coach. I was able to choose out of a dietician or an exercise coach, and I chose a dietician. Secondly, my brother was also on a journey to lose weight and we have supported each other through this.
Why you need Professional advice
Having professional advice regarding my diet was a game changer for me. Even though I’m a Registered Nurse with a background in health, I really had no idea about a healthy diet. I learned so much from the dietician, in particular the dietary requirements for over 50’s are a lot different than a younger person. She gave me advice about incorporating more vegetables into my diet, and cooking food in a healthier way. I would definitely recommend that you consult a dietician because they are experts in nutrition and weight loss, and are trained to be your coach.
So many times I felt like giving up, but I felt accountable to my coach. She would phone me every three weeks and was so positive and encouraging that I felt I couldn’t let her down. I’d hear her voice in my head urging me to walk up those flights of stairs even when my feet were aching and I was breathing like a steam train! My successful weight loss is mostly due to that constant support – when I felt like giving up and was full of self doubt, she pulled me through and gave me the confidence to succeed.
Support from non-professionals
Every time my brother and I spoke on the phone it was the same kind of encouragement. We gave each other advice and praised each other’s achievements. I wouldn’t have stuck to it if it weren’t for those two people. My brother used the keto diet and intermittent fasting to achieve his weight loss, and we acknowledged that we could still support each other even though we were using vastly different ways to lose weight. No one method suits everyone, and that is another key reason why consulting a dietician is important.
I also had encouragement from a few of my work colleagues which was really lovely. Only a few people at work knew I was trying to lose weight. It actually took months for anyone to notice – I had already lost 10kg before people really noticed the weight loss! I thought it was funny how unobservant a lot of people are. Getting that praise boosted my self esteem, and made me so much more confident in myself.
My dogs have been great motivators as well because they are border collies who need walking no matter what. If you’re not lucky enough to own a dog, try buddying up with a friend for regular walks. If you normally meet for coffee, try get it to takeaway and drink while you have a stroll.
So my message today is, get support, even if you have to pay a professional or join a program. Lack of money or time? Find a Facebook group or online community that is based on weight loss, exercise, or whatever your area of self improvement is. It’ll make a huge difference.
I have found the following resources helpful and they are mostly free:
The first port of call should be your GP. Any weight loss or healthy lifestyle program should only be started after consulting your own doctor. Please read my Disclaimer here – this website is for informational purposes only.
For more inspirational articles on living a healthy life, read the following:
Many people feel daunted by the prospect of getting healthier because the goal seems so hard to achieve. For me, I wanted to lose 10kg. I thought that goal was going to be impossible to achieve. It came down to breaking a bad habit. The thing I’d noticed that was in common for the slimmest people I knew was that they ate salad for lunch. One of my colleagues brought a massive salad to work – the size was like a family sized amount to me – and she was really slim. My lunch consisted of sandwiches, a large muffin, a full sized yoghurt and some fruit! So I started by eating a large salad at lunchtime instead. That one change meant I swapped a meal consisting of high calories, with one that had healthy vegetables and was only around 150 kcal.
So the start of changing any unhealthy habits, including weight loss, stopping smoking, or reducing alcohol intake, is to start with one thing. My one thing was swapping out my lunch with a healthier option. One of my relatives changed drinking beer with a vodka and soda and started losing weight. To stop smoking, many people stop the habit that they do along with the smoking, for example if they normally drink coffee and have a smoke, they stop drinking coffee and that can help them stop smoking because there isn’t that trigger anymore.
New habits can be gained as well. I started walking up the 4 or 5 flights of stairs at work. At the beginning I could barely breathe at the end of it and my heart was racing for the next 15 minutes. Over time I have improved my stamina, to the point that my husband and I could walk up to 19000 steps a day on our recent holiday to Japan, and climb Mt. Mison while we were there.
So if it seems too hard at the beginning, start by just changing one thing – start a new healthy habit by swapping one thing with another. It can lead to other changes and the end goal will become that much easier to achieve.
Small Changes You Can Make Today
Some examples of small changes that you can make today, that will lead to a healthier lifestyle:
Take a salad for lunch instead of getting take away food,
Walk the stairs at work instead of taking the lift,
Have fruit instead of a muffin or cake for morning tea,
Eat breakfast instead of waiting to eat until mid morning,
Don’t eat after dinner,
Eat a snack sized chocolate instead of a full sized bar,
Don’t drink soft drinks. Drink water instead.
If you enjoyed this short article, more information is in the following:
This month marks one year since I weighed my heaviest. I have lost over 17kg and managed to sustain the weight loss for 6 months. I didn’t use any fad diet or expensive program to do it. I will be sharing tips on how to lose weight as part of this blog, but for now I will just say that to lose weight, you need to keep at it. Rapid weight loss using fad diets that cut out major food groups do work, however I believe that they can’t be sustained long term. Using my own experience, I managed to lose weight many times in the past, but as soon as I stopped “dieting” I put that weight straight back on, plus more. My yo-yo weight was not healthy.
I am not a dietician, and I urge anyone wanting to lose weight to see their doctor, and a dietician before doing so. Once you get some professional advice, start your weight loss, and stick to it. I was losing about 500grams per week which is a safe, steady way to do it.
I did get professional advice – my doctor had to give me medical clearance. I signed up for a free program sponsored by the Queensland Government called Get Healthy, my eligibility was due to me being at high risk of developing diabetes. Even if you’re not eligible for their programs, there is a lot of free information on their website. My weight loss success was even featured in their website: https://www.gethealthyqld.com.au/success-stories/stories/christina .
My final decision to lose this weight forever came about after my son graduated and I saw how hideous I looked in all the photos. I had bought an outfit in Malta and had saved it for this special occasion but when I saw how I looked in it I was deeply ashamed of just how big I had become. Now every time I look at my son’s graduation photos I am reminded of just how far I’ve come. Sometimes that’s all it takes to start you on your journey.
Please refer to my disclaimer and note that I advise you to get medical advice before starting any fitness or weight loss program. Best of luck on your journey.
If you enjoyed this article, there’s more valuable advice here:
Update 24 June 2020 – It’s now well over a year since I reached my goal weight and I have sustained the weight loss using the same principles. In the last year I’ve had several health issues but I’ve stayed at a healthy weight despite being limited in my ability to exercise. If you’re struggling with your weight, or you’d like to mention a method that has worked for you, please comment. It’s an issue that a lot of people battle with and I’d love to support you on your journey.