My Favorite Power Foods and Healthy Snacks

I've always been a calorie counter but lately I'm trying to pay more attention to the make up of those calories.  When I don't, I come up short in protein, calcium and fiber and too high in sugars and random carbohydrates of little to no significant nutritional value.  When you focus on a calorie max AND the composition of those calories it forces you to make different decisions about what you eat.  I started this in January.  I knew I wouldn't be exercising for at least two months after surgery and thought it would be a good habit to get into.  I do not hit this mark every day of course but shooting for it helps me make better choices on a day to day basis.

Some people say a calorie is a calorie and it doesn't matter where it comes from as long as you are within a reasonable calorie budget.  I'm not sure how that can be true when the body reacts to fat, carbohydrates and proteins differently.  Protein is more filling while empty calories made up mostly of fat and carbohydrates leave you hungry.  Excess protein and carbohydrates serve a function even though any excess is stored as fat but fat is just fat and is 9 calories per gram whereas carbohydrates and proteins are 4 calories per gram.  They are different but you need them all which makes it a really tough balancing act to consume them AND stay within a reasonable sodium range.

These are foods that are helping me hit the 25% Fat, 50% Carbohydrates, 25% Protein range that I'm shooting for.  And yes, there are other macro nutrients and vitamins to be aware of.  I can't account for them all but in general when I watch these three categories the healthier foods naturally follow.

String Cheese
One stick has 6 grams of protein and is full of calcium.  Yes, it also has 6 grams of fat and 200 grams of sodium which is why you have to eat it in moderation which really, really sucks.  If you give me a block of cheese I'm gonna go wild, but the perfectly portioned 1 oz sticks of string cheese keeps me in check.  I don't drink milk so this is a good calcium source for me.  I usually eat one a day.

Fiber 1 cereal Original
I've been eating this for years to try to help me get to the recommended 30 grams of fiber per day.  Just 1/2 cup has a whopping 14 grams of fiber and only adds 60 calories to my day.  It also has 2 grams of protein and is very low fat.

Greek Yogurt
This is a new one for me but I'm giving it a try because just 4 oz of Fage Yogurt has 12 grams of protein.  That's huge!  It's also a good source of calcium.  It's high where you want it and low everywhere else with very little carbs and sodium and 0 fat.  It's pretty much the perfect food.  Except for the tart taste that is.  I've  been adding 1 teaspoon of honey or agave and a stevia packet to tone down the tartness.  You can also mix in granola or Fiber 1 cereal.  You have to be careful with the flavored ones because they are sometimes loaded with sugar and not as much protein but Yoplait makes a Vanilla flavored one that has only 7 grams of sugar and 13 grams of protein per serving.

My favorite fruit is an apple.  Yes, fruit tends to be high in sugar but at least it's not artificial.  Apples are a good fruit source for fiber and helps satisfy my sweet tooth too.

Baby Carrots
Baby Carrots are a favorite of mine to snack on because they are easy to pack up for work and they give me that snacking hand to mouth motion that I seem to crave.  I've heard that fresh is best but frozen is easy so that's what we usually end up eating for dinner.  Canned vegetables have way too much sodium.  Vegetables add to the protein count and have other nutrients without adding any fat.  The only ones I really hate are Peas, Lima Beans and celery.  I used to only eat corn and green beans but as I've gotten older I've branched out and like broccoli, spinach, Brussels Sprouts and cooked carrots. 

All natural popcorn
This is another latest obsession of mine.  There is healthy microwave popcorn out there but even the healthiest will typically still have at least 200 grams of sodium.  I've been buying the kernels and popping it on the stove to save myself the sodium.  1/3 cup of popcorn kernels makes about 10 cups of popcorn which is basically a giant bowl of goodness with zero fat AND protein that I can munch on without guilt.  It's the perfect snack for sitting on the couch to watch TV and movies.  It satisfies my snacker impulses in a healthy way.

I really, really love beans and they are an excellent source of low fat protein and fiber.  My favorite are kidney, pinto and black beans but I'm pretty sure I like them all.  Except Lima.  Canned beans are easy but like anything canned they often have too much sodium.  Some of them you can buy without sodium or you can buy them fresh in a bag.  It requires soaking over night to soften them but when I made Chili with them it cut out a ton of sodium so it was worth it.  I want to make a three bean salad with fresh beans too.  

Grilled Chicken Breast
It's low fat, low calorie, packed with protein and can easily be mixed with vegetables or added onto a salad for a satisfying meal.  If you get the lean version ground beef and turkey is just as low fat as chicken breast.  I mostly stick with grilled chicken and mix in the other kinds of meat periodically.  You pretty much can't go wrong with grilled chicken.  Unless you are a vegetarian in which case Tofu is very similar in nutritional content.

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