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A little Planning Goes a Long Way

 
By: NCSF  on:  May 31 2012
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We’ve all had days when we’re hungry and tired, short on time, and just want something quick and healthy to eat. Most fitness enthusiasts know to avoid fried foods, oversize portions of bagged carbohydrates, and drive-thru meal deals - so what to eat? The shelves of almost all convenience stores provide the quick answer via an assortment or protein-stuffed energy bars, as has the walk-thru smoothie bars that sometimes dominate the diets of those with busy lifestyles. While by themselves, and at the right time, these foods may serve as decent options; living on protein bars and smoothies is not a good idea. Not only can smoothies and bars get expensive, they’re not often representative of a healthy dietary goal. These foods can be relatively high in saturated fat and simple sugars; two categories of nutrients that most Americans should be avoiding. The label of Powerbar Triple Threat, for example, verifies that the product contains 230 calories while providing 10 grams of protein, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 16 grams of sugar. Many Proteinplus bars contains 20 g of sugar and 20g protein. Similarly, smoothies taste good, but most people don’t pay attention to serving sizes and/or total caloric content - which can equate to hundreds of excess calories. A 20-ounce smoothie can contain anywhere from 200 to over 800 calories; and smoothies that sound similar can vary wildly in caloric content, as well can the amount of fat and sugar. A JambaJuice mango smoothie series can range from 250 to 400 calories. Smoothies themselves don’t tend to be satisfying because of their low protein content, so add in the protein or peanut butter and the calorie count goes up, along with the cost. A single-serve smoothie can cost $5 or $6, and add-ins such as protein powder or superjuice shots can be $1 or more. So what’s a busy person to do?

For about the same quantity of calories (and a little planning) a person can eat a whole wheat English muffin with a tablespoon of almond butter with an apple, or a tortilla filled with three ounces of turkey, tomatoes, lettuce, and mustard with a peach. Not only do the almond butter and turkey contain almost as much, if not more, protein per serving when compared to the supplement bar; they are also lower in saturated fat and provide greater satiety. As perceived by the brain, a sandwich will feel more like a meal because of the variety of nutrient content when compared to a bar; which can be consumed in a few bites and often doesn’t fully satisfy our appetite (even when the caloric content equals a small meal). Essentially, bars and shakes are often calorically dense, but do not provide the satiation of real food products.

Considering these concepts, it should be easy for one to realize that a little planning can significantly improve food quality and dietary experiences for people on the run. It takes a little time and effort, but a premeditated eating plan allows you to have a healthy snack that doesn’t negatively affect your bottom line or your midsection. Most people who work in offices usually have access to refrigerators and microwaves, so it often makes sense to bring in food prepared at home. While making snacks the night before may be too much effort for some people, making extra when you cook your dinner is not very difficult. Preplanning quantities and packaging the leftovers into individual containers can alleviate the problem. Store them in the freezer until you’re ready to eat them which can allow for food variety during the week. If you spend a lot of time on the road or at the gym, invest in a small cooler, which will keep foods such as poultry, sliced and prepared fruits and vegetables, plain yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs cold and safe until you’re ready to eat them. If you’re really in a bind, look for almonds, fruits, and other shelf-stable foods that provide you with a dose of satisfying protein as well as carbohydrates and fat. Finally, keep in mind that smoothies and bars are not inherently terrible but are made for endurance athletes or those that just finished a bout of exercise. By design, the contents are made for the consumption by endurance athletes and individuals who engage in high-intensity workouts several times a week. The average person has room in their diet to enjoy one every now and then, but living on them is not the most healthful idea.

 
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