The Quick Answer: It's true—snacking can trim your girth. See the list below for snacks that are tasty, healthy and a good value.
There’s a strong link between this week’s topic of diabetes and obesity. By good fortune, the annual report on obesity in America just came out. In brief, we’re still losing the war against fat. I couldn’t find a single success story but at least the growth of fat is slowing. In America—the land of plenty—about 1/3 of adults are overweight, and another 1/3 are obese but this varies with region.
It’s fascinating to look at regional trends. When both adults and children are considered, Hawaii does the best. The Western states are next best, followed by New England. The Southern states do the worst. The data for diabetes, hypertension, impaired longevity, and stroke, all follow the regional obesity pattern. Though the South struggles, we all need to do better.
I’m uncomfortable with the public debate against obesity. First, a load of guilt is laid on the obese and guilt doesn’t motivate long-term change. Second, overweight is a complex issue and public debate isn’t good at solving such problems. So here are a couple of observations from hard-earned common sense:
1. Don't cut calories to lose weight. Despite all the focus on calories in recent decades, they aren’t the answer to overweight. Hunger is a powerful force; you can resist it for a while but not forever. A UCLA meta-study found that calorie-restriction diets actually resulted in an increase in weight for two-thirds of the participants.
2. Forget about weight and focus on building a healthier lifestyle. Take care of your health, and your weight will take care of itself. The low-fat/low-calorie craze was a big mistake because it focused on subtle changes in processed foods, rather than a return to natural, whole foods.
3. Natural foods are dense in nutrients but low in calories. Processed foods are the opposite, high in calories and low in nutrients. If you eat right, you can eat to comfortable fullness and enjoy food as well as a healthy weight. Oh, add a longer life to the benefits.
4. Physical activity is key to good health—experts call for at least three hours of activity that makes you sweat, spread through the week. But it’s more than exercise—the key is to build a lifestyle that uses muscles, rather than laborsaving devices. Yes, do your own gardening, even if you’re the only one on the block. (We’ll address the TV—the antithesis of physicality—in a later post.)
The Healthiest Snacks
As you adopt the weekly Healthy Changes to fit your needs, you create a healthier lifestyle. In the beginning, we reduced added sugars and eliminated trans fats. Then we began to increase natural foods, beginning with whole grains, vegetables and fruits. There’s more to come—the year is just half over—the subject of this week is healthy snacks. From past comments, here are your favorites:
o The best snack is a drink of refreshing water—it’s good for you. Check this Healthy Change.
o The next best value after water is snacking on leftovers.
o Seasonal fruits are another bargain. Checking the produce aisle we found these buys: cantaloupe at $.25/lb, watermelon for $.50/lb, and peaches at $.50 to .65/lb.
o Popcorn, air-popped, or microwaved in a paper bag. Sacha adds butter and a little Parmesan cheese.
o Homemade bread, especially toast. My Mom liked toast with sliced avocado. If you buy yeast in bulk, the price drops under $1/loaf.
o Bran muffins; homemade are hard to beat.
o Kale chips. Brie says to roast whole leaves with a touch of sea salt at 250 F until dry and crunchy.
o Hummus, the new guacamole. It’s healthy; Michelle has it with veggies or pita chips. (Maybe a future post on best hummus?)
o Seasonal veggies. Whole carrots are a bargain, $.45 to .60/lb. in our survey. LC likes zucchini, carrots, and cauliflower. Celery sticks with peanut butter are a tradition but Taylor prefers homemade almond butter.
o Green smoothies are a favorite, or any healthy fruit smoothie.
o Homemade granola (check Katie’s recipe) makes a great snack.
o Trail mix, especially homemade, is great too.
o Nuts are a treat; they cost more so buy direct or in bulk. Jess gets his from nuttyguys.com.
o Dried fruits are best for winter; I like prunes or dates with walnuts or pecans.
o Cheese is good with homemade bread, crackers (that meet the whole grain rule of more fiber than sugar), in quesadillas, or with apples.
o Hard-boiled eggs (omega-3 is improved by feeding the chickens natural pasture, flaxseed, or algae).
o Sardines on crackers—an omega-3 bonus.
o Edamame, warmed and salted.
Budget Wisdom: Forget what you hear—healthy food is the best value, all costs considered. Supermarkets have been fixing up their stores and raising prices lately, but I walked through an alternative store last night (Smart & Final) and was surprised to find nearly all the produce selling for less than 1 $/lb. (A really healthy food, cantaloupe, was on sale for 25 cents a pound. It’s today's health bargain.) I calculated that a family of four could eat eight daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables for just $135 a month. (Not including whole grains, another good value, nuts, dairy and a little meat.)
Please Comment: The 4th of July reminds that it’s summertime. Please share your summer menu favorites and we'll add a post on seasonal menus.