Keep on Track with Healthy Snacks

It's relatively easy to follow a healthy eating plan at home. You stock your fridge and pantry with the foods you want to be able to reach, and you aren't tempted by shelves full of junk you don't need. But when you're on the go -- on vacation, at the office or just out and about during the day -- it's not uncommon to be seriously sidetracked. When you're staring a fast food joint or a checkout counter candy stand in the eye, it's hard to summon up your willpower and resist that temptation.

The good news is that with a little bit of prior planning, you can keep healthy snacks on hand for easy access -- and you can fight off the cravings that make you susceptible to overindulgence in the first place.

This course will help you first analyze your typical scenarios, then develop a smart snacking plan that helps you stay on track with your eating plan. This course is great for anyone who wants to eat healthier snacks and avoid foods that are low in nutritional value.

We'll talk about:

What's in all those foods that attract you -- and why those sugars, empty calories and trans fats are not the optimal choice
How healthy snacks can keep your blood sugar levels even and keep your energy stable
What you can do differently and how you can plan ahead
Tips and tricks for success in a variety of situations -- in the car, on airplanes or cruise ships and at office parties, conventions or client lunches
The Atkins Advantage products you can grab on the go to stay healthy and satisfied
Ready to change your habits and get healthy? Let's go!

The snacks you choose can actually promote good health and help you meet your overall health and nutrition goals. Let's take a closer look at how and why snacking really is good for you.

For one thing, enjoying smaller mini-meals throughout the day keeps your blood sugar even and your energy levels high, which means, you'll feel better all day long. But that's not all. Snacking actually helps your metabolism run more efficiently. In other words, you might consume slightly more food, but you'll be burning it off at a faster rate. And to top it all off, snacking keeps you satisfied, so you'll never again feel famished and will probably end up consuming fewer calories at the end of the day. Feeling satisfied makes it a lot easier to pass by the junk food snacks you encounter during the day.

Two Snacking Scenarios
Read these two snacking scenarios, and then take a moment to think about the health implications of each.

Unhealthy Snacking
You're too rushed to have a real breakfast in the morning, so you grab a doughnut on the way to work. By the time you slog through your morning e-mail you're craving coffee, and you need to dump in loads of sugar to mask the taste of the office sludge and give you that extra surge. Now it's nearly lunchtime, and you join up with a group heading out to a burger joint. You've got an afternoon meeting, so you super size your order to fortify yourself. At 4 p.m., you pop over to a birthday party for Anna in Accounting and grab a piece of cake to tide you over until you get home for dinner. By the time you walk in the door, the sugar rush has passed and you're much too exhausted to cook. You settle down in front of the TV with a bag of chips and promise yourself that tomorrow will be different.

Sound familiar? It's okay -- we've all been there. But now you really can say goodbye to feeling guilty.

Healthy Snacking
Let's go back and take a look at some simple changes you could make to create a dramatically different outcome.

As you rush out the door in the morning, you grab an Atkins Advantage® nutrition bar from the basket you keep by your front door. At work, you fix yourself a cup of naturally delicious herbal tea or make your own fresh cup coffee and enjoy it with high fiber crisp bread and a slice of cheese or a home made flax seed muffin. For lunch, you eat turkey and a huge salad you brought from home while you get a jump start on some reports your boss needs. You hit the afternoon meeting and grab a handful of homemade trail mix on your way to Anna's birthday party. You decline the cake with a smile and a pleasant "Thanks, I just ate." You head back to your desk and finish up for the day while snacking on some yogurt and berries or an Atkins Advantage Granola nutrition bar , then head home ready to cook up a sensible, healthy dinner.

Which day would you rather have?

Notice that the snacks and meals you're eating in the second scenario may take a little more effort than those in the first scenario, but the health benefits you will enjoy as a result make it worthwhile. You can save a lot of time by choosing packaged snacks that pack complete nutrition into a tasty bar or shake.

Remember that not all convenience on-the-go foods are made with your health in mind. Worse, some products may be lower in fat and calories than the conventional alternative, but still contain high amounts of sugars, white flour and a low level of nutrients.

Next, take a look at what your snacks should -- and shouldn't -- contain.

Snacks full of protein and fiber will keep your energy levels balanced and even all day.

Protein
Protein is a big part of any healthy diet. Proteins are made up of amino acids; you probably remember them from high school science class as "the building blocks of the body." We need protein in order to survive. Without it, our bodies wouldn't be able to manufacture muscles, organs, hair, neurotransmitters, enzymes and all our other critical systems.

In other words, you don't have a choice -- you have to keep eating proteins. Fortunately, if you have weight to lose, they play an important role in weight loss, so you can savor every bite you eat.

Here's how protein can help in your health maintenance program:

High-protein snacks fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied.
Eating protein-rich snacks generally causes people to eat smaller meals.
Protein consumption boosts your metabolic rate and helps you burn more calories for hours after you eat.
It's not always easy to get enough protein in your diet -- so consider supplementing with an Atkins Advantage nutrition bar or shake for a protein-packed snack that will keep you full, satisfied and healthy.

Remember that all bars and shakes are not created equal. If you're choosing a bar or shake as a meal replacement or snack, look for one with adequate protein and fiber that is low in sugar.

Fiber
In addition to protein, you should also strive to fill your diet with fiber. Fiber is, in fact, a carbohydrate, but it doesn't convert to glucose, which means it won't raise your blood sugar levels like other refined carbohydrates. In fact, fiber actually slows the entry of glucose into the bloodstream and slows down food's transit time in the digestive tract, which helps you feel full longer.

Fiber-rich snacks include vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit, beans and Atkins Advantage nutrition bars and shakes.

Here are some of the terrific benefits that fiber offers:

Binds to cholesterol in the intestine, helping rid the body of it
Absorbs and then eliminates bacterial toxins in the intestine
Reduces the likelihood of getting diverticulitis
Speeds the excretion of gallstone-promoting bile
Supports the immune system by crowding out harmful bacteria in the colon
Bulks up the stool and make it easier to pass
Now that we've covered the health benefits of protein and fiber, let's take a look at smart snacking dos and don'ts.

You've already figured out that snacks aren't inherently bad. In fact, they are an important part of a healthy overall eating plan. But there are smart snacking strategies that can help your diet -- and bad choices that can sink it. We'll start with what you should do:

Eat a decent breakfast. Aim for an actual meal. If you're strapped for time, check out the various Atkins Advantage nutrition bars and shakes available. Starting your day right with adequate protein and fiber and low sugar keeps your blood sugar levels and energy even.
Choose crunchy foods that are low in glycemic impact. Some of the best snacks are nuts, fruits (like blueberries and cherries) with an ounce of cheese, or celery sticks with cream cheese or peanut butter.
Take the time to enjoy your snack properly. If you're at home, arrange your snack on a plate or a nice tray and sit down to eat it. If you must snack on the go, try to take a few minutes to sit down and eat, rather than plowing through your food as you race through your errands.
Have a drink. If you're in the mood for a snack but you're not really hungry, try drinking some hot herbal tea or sugar-free cocoa. And don't overlook a simple glass of ice water with lemon. Drinking plenty of water will help you feel fuller and keep you hydrated.
Keep good snacks within reach. Stock a few Atkins Advantage nutrition bars in your bag or in a basket near your front door so you can grab them and go. Replace your junk food shelf with snacks that fill you up without weighing you down. Swap out the candy jar on your desk for an Atkins Advantage Fudge Brownie Caramel Bar. Make it easy to make good choices!
Moving On
This lesson showed you why snacks are an important part of your overall eating plan. In Lesson 2, you'll take a closer look at coping strategies that you can apply wherever you go. Meanwhile, be sure to complete the quiz and assignment that go along with this lesson to be sure you've mastered all the material. And don't forget to check out the course Message Board, where you can get and give support to your classmates and interact with an Atkins-savvy instructor. You can post questions and share your tips comments, and experiences, so be sure to stop by.

In our first lesson, you saw how snacks fit into a sensible eating plan. Now, we'll figure out how you can practice smart snacking strategies wherever you go.

For starters, we'll take a look at how, where and why snacking tends to get out of hand.

Most workplaces are loaded with traps for anyone trying to eat well. Just think about a typical setup:

You head to the break room to stretch your legs. The coffee's already on, so you dump a couple lumps of sugar in to mask the scalded taste. Someone's left a plate of doughnuts for everyone to enjoy. It's almost rude not to take one, right?
You need to work late, so you order in from a nearby fast food place. Or everyone's putting in a buck for a lunchtime pizza, and you don't want to seem standoffish.
There's a birthday bash almost every afternoon. Remember Elaine and the 4 o'clock sugar rush from that old "Seinfeld" episode?
So what can you do to combat the sabotage that lurks behind every cubicle?

Spend a few minutes of your weekend planning your meals and snacks for the week. On Monday morning, make sure you restock your desk drawer with the kind of healthy snacks you can indulge in during the day.
Write your meals into your schedule. Even when you need to work through lunch or stay late, reach for an Atkins Advantage nutrition bar or shake rather than gorging on food that will leave you hungrier than you were before you ate.
Splurge on several boxes of good herbal tea or your favorite coffee and brew a fresh cup whenever you need a hot drink break.
What about healthy snacks while you're traveling? We'll cover that next.

Vacations -- and merely eating out -- can often break down even the most focused individual.

You're far from home without a familiar grocery store in sight. You stop off at a fast food joint or indulge in a gourmet restaurant meal, then follow up by stuffing yourself at the next five or six meals.
Every family occasion is an excuse to whip up a five-course meal that's loaded with everything you're trying to avoid. You alternate between time at the table and time on the couch.
Don't use your trip as an excuse to veer from your long-term health and nutrition goals. Remember, if you continually take detours from your planned route, you'll never reach your destination.

You're not eating too much -- but the drinking each evening of your vacation is making you lethargic during the day.
You're stuck on an unexpected layover. Airport food?
How can you keep your eating on course even when you're miles from home? Once more, it's all about the planning.

Invest in a small, insulated lunch bag. When you fly or travel in your car for the day, load it up with tuna fish, chicken or egg salads in plastic containers and a small ice pack. Green salads can travel in plastic bags -- keep the dressing on the side. You can also fill containers with cold cuts and veggies, or wrap baked chicken for a nutritious, filling snack.
In restaurants, substitute extra vegetables for white pasta or white potatoes. Request fresh fruit instead of sugary desserts.
Limit yourself to a single alcoholic beverage, and then switch to water or flavored seltzer.
Scout out locations ahead of time. If you know where you're going, get online and locate a nearby grocery store. Most hotels will provide a fridge and a microwave in your room for a nominal charge. Plan some easy-to-make meals and carry a day's worth of snacks in your lunch bag.
Ask your family flat-out for support. Sometimes just saying, "I can't do this without your help" is enough to win people over to your side. By changing your own eating habits, you have the power to change your family -- which could actually give you all many more happy years to enjoy each other.
If you do decide to indulge in some sugary foods at a restaurant or family event, make it a one-time thing. Plan for it ahead of time, and go in knowing that it's a conscious decision, not a mistake. That way, you're ready to get back on track the next day. You won't fall into a cycle of eating poorly and then continuing to make bad choices out of frustration.

Now let's talk about healthy nutrition when you're traveling with kids.

Traveling with kids isn't easy to begin with. Trying to stick to a healthy eating regimen to boot can be even more trying. But it can be done, and in fact, it can make the entire vacation more enjoyable.

Typically, when you travel with small children, you're dealing with short attention spans and lots of demands. Planning is critical -- for their sake, and for yours. When you plan a family vacation, there are several important things to keep in mind:

Don't over schedule your days. Kids need downtime, and so do moms and dads. If you try to spend a morning touring every major museum in Paris and an afternoon waiting in line at the Eiffel Tower, no one will be happy. Pick one big event for the day and a smaller, optional event for the afternoon.
Start the day off right. Make sure everyone sits down to a sensible breakfast. Take the time to talk about what you'll be doing during the day so that everyone knows what to expect.
Plan lots of short breaks. Every few hours, take a break and let everyone eat a healthy snack (a piece of fruit, an Atkins Advantage nutrition bar, or a few slices of deli meats or cheese are good options). Keep plenty of water bottles on hand so that you can all stay hydrated, too.
Don't skip meals on vacation. Tempted to pass on lunch to make better time? Don't do it. Omitting a meal could make you ravenous, out of control and more likely to grab anything edible.

Aim for some downtime after lunch. Try to go for at least a brief stroll after you eat lunch, then head back to your hotel so the little ones can nap. Or pick a low-key afternoon activity.
Eat a sensible dinner, and enjoy an occasional dessert. You're on vacation, and you deserve to enjoy yourself, so don't try to be perfect at every meal.
The next section provides some ideas for healthy snacks.

We've spent a lot of time talking about how to fit snacks into your eating plan. Now it's time for the fun -- let's take a look at some snack ideas you can use. The bonus? Many of these are highly kid-friendly, so you can stock your home refrigerator and feel good that you're helping your children develop smart eating habits.

Want to feel decadent? Try fresh fruit -- like blueberries or strawberries -- with cottage cheese, yogurt, or whipped cream. The fruit and protein combination keeps your blood sugar level for hours.
Make your own trail mix by combining nuts, seeds and sugar-free dried cranberries or cherries.
Pile peanut butter or cheese on whole grain crackers for a filling afternoon snack.
Share a plate of celery with cream cheese or peanut butter -- it's a crunchy treat you can enjoy with your kids or your friends.
A plate of deviled eggs or rolled-up deli slices can work when you're having company or as your contribution to a potluck meal.
Start with an Atkins Advantage protein drink and blend it with some fresh fruit and crushed ice to give it that milkshake feel.
Once you get used to the idea of integrating snacks into your daily routine, it becomes second nature. And once you see how full -- and fulfilled -- you feel, you'll know that you made the right choice when you decided to improve your eating habits.

Thanks for Taking This Course

You still have a quiz and an assignment to complete for this lesson, so be sure to do that. But you should also take the time to stop by the Message Board to share your experiences and reactions with your classmates. You can benefit greatly by reading what others have to say and by hearing their smart snacking suggestions. Have a great idea to share? Please do so! And be sure to check out our other course offerings here at the Atkins Learning Center.