I don't know about you but every summer I usually gain about five pounds due to my kids being home for summer break. School's out and I'm in the kitchen more than usual preparing three meals a day plus snacks. And I just love going out for ice cream with the family on a hot summer day.
However, all of that food preparation, snacking and ice cream usually results in tight pants once the school year starts up again. I didn't want to repeat the same ol summer routine this season, so I put together what I call my SOS plan. SOS stands for Snack Off Solutions and so far they are working and I am maintaining my weight without feeling completely deprived as we enjoy our summer fun. Take a look at these SOS tips and see if they can help you ward off those summer snack cravings. And tell me what you do to survive the kids' summer break without gaining weight. Leave your tips in the comments section because I would love to know what works for you. Here is what I have been doing this summer that still enables me to enjoy some tasty treats with some snack attack solutions that keep me from overindulging....
My Successful Seven SOS (Snack Attack Solutions) Tips
*SOS #1 -- Cut down on the evil trio - bread, sugar and booze. When I greatly reduce these three items, I always drop weight and maintain that loss. So now when we go out for a meal, I limit myself to one glass of a light white wine and lots of water, one small sliver of bread or none at all and I usually skip dessert. I used to be a huge dessert eater so this is a big one for me. Once a week, I will let myself enjoy a good dessert, but on most days, it is now a no no. See the segment to see my better bread, sugar and booze alternatives, which is Ezekiel bread, liquid stevia, organic raw honey, pure maple syrup and wine instead of sugary cocktails.
In the segment, I showed the No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Bars. The recipe for this appears at the end of this article. The recipe is easy and these bars are super tasty!
*SOS #2 -- Use tracking tools -- Livestrong.com offers a cool free app called My Plate. I now track what I eat and doing that makes a huge difference because it makes me accountable. Plus I am easily able to calculate how many calories I'm taking in as well as fiber, sugar, carbs and more. They also offer a free app for your smart phone, too. Watch the segment to see pictures of what the tracking looks like and you will see how easy it is to record your daily meals. Simply enter in the food you ate and the application quickly tells you how many calories that food contains. Plus the page keeps a pie chart of the carbs, proteins and fat you have ingested as well as a personalized chart with your daily intake of sodium, sugars and more. It also enables you to record your daily fitness actions and the amount of water you drink each day. This is the link if you want to try it -http://www.livestrong.com/myplate/. It is free and easy to use. Since I started tracking, I think about everything I eat and it makes it easier for me to make better choices since I am accountable to myself. Plus this is an easy way to see if you are meeting your daily nutritional needs.
*SOS #3 -- Snack Weaning Options -- Instead of trying to go cold turkey and to completely give up snacks (especially with my kids snacking all around me), I stopped buying full sized bags of snacks and opted for the 100 calorie packs. So many food brands now offer the reduced calorie packs, so there are a lot of choices. My family also appreciated this since they have become more aware of what they eat and know that portion control is a good discipline to learn. As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, I have a big weakness for ice cream, so we buy Skinny Cow or my other favorite is the Eating Right 80 Calorie Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream Bars that are sold at Safeway. Give those a try and your ice cream craving will be satisfied for a lot less calories than a big bowl of the scrumptious, but sugary, stuff. I also look for snacks that are better choices like the Trader Joe's popcorn, almonds, Pirate's Booty and the yummy Simply7 snack line instead of traditional chips, candy and other empty sugar snacks. The Simply7 line has crunchy snacks like the tasty Pomegranate Sea Salt Chips which has no trans fat, no artificial colors or preservatives, is gluten free and more. I buy my Simply7 snacks at Safeway. For a quick breakfast on the run, I enjoy the Oatmega bars that are sold at My Fit Foods.
*SOS #4 -- Family Food Finds -- Ask each family member to get creative and to make a list of healthier snack options to replace the bad stuff. My family pleasantly surprised me with suggestions like guacamole, hard boiled eggs, sliced strawberries, carrot sticks, apple slices with peanut butter, edamame, frozen grapes and smoothies made with frozen yogurt, bananas and protein powder. When each person had to make a list, it got everyone brainstorming better options and it was no longer all Mom's idea to bring home healthier foods since everyone had their picks. Get them all involved with your SOS plan and if they are on board, it makes smarter snack options easier to follow through on and enjoy together.
*SOS #5 -- Just say no to liquid calories -- This is actually one of the easiest ways to cut back on excess sugars and calories. Simply stop buying sugary beverages and that includes diet sodas which aren't healthy for your body. Our rule is to only keep skim milk, water and unsweetened green tea in our fridge for drinking. I avoid Gatorade since both my doctor and dentist have called it sugar water. I do use Gatorade if my kids need electrolytes from illness or after an especially active game, but I usually do not buy Gatorade.
I also keep wine on hand for me and hubs for special occasions, but I don't drink it nearly as much as I used to due to the sugar content. On special occasions, I will let my daughter have Zevia soda, which is a better option than soda because it is sweetened by an extract of Stevia, the sweetleaf herb, which is a relative of the sunflower. I don't let her have it on a regular basis, but when we are craving a soda now and then, I feel OK about letting her have this instead, but do know that the Dr. Zevia (tastes like Dr. Pepper) and the cola varieties do have caffeine. They also offer ginger ale, cream soda, root beer and more. I easily found this brand at my Safeway store and at Sprouts Farmers Market.
*SOS #6 -- Calendar Calorie Control -- Every week I plan out my family calendar and now I've added a food calendar for myself, too. That means I look ahead at potential healthy eating pitfalls due to social events that will serve up plenty of tempting foods. If I know ahead of time that we have a lunch to attend or a party planned, then I will save my splurge for that particular day. I also aim to eat as healthy as possible leading up to that day. In addition to that, I will look up the restaurant's menu in advance and decide before I arrive exactly what I'm having so that I don't have to look at the tempting menu. Once there, I order quickly and stick to my preplanned meal order. This has worked well for me since I will calculate ahead of time that I can enjoy one glass of wine, half of an appetizer and a meal minus dessert. If this particular restaurant has a dessert that I really desire, then I know to skip the appetizer and wine so that my sugar comes from the dessert and not in every part of the meal. I also try to just eat half of what I order. My friend's trainer gave her that tip and it really does work, especially since you can ask the server to take it right away from you at the halfway point.
*SOS #7 -- Diet Distractions & Physical Fun Fitness -- Figure out what distractions work for you when the craving monster comes calling. For me popping a piece of sugarless gum with Xylitol (which is good for your teeth) gives me something to taste and chew, without the excess calories. Or I may get a pedicure instead of a piece of pie. Trying on clothes and walking around the mall is a good motivator and you get exercise at the same time. Unfortunately, going to the movies is not a distraction for me because I love movie theater popcorn and treats, so that ends up being a splurge. So I choose to do things that distract me from snacking rather than tempt me more.
Physical Fun Fitness -- Of course exercising is always a good distraction, but make it fun. Take time with your kids this summer to play and swim with them, as that is a fun physical fitness distraction that your kids will enjoy. This summer we have played badminton in the backyard in the evening and even though we don't have a net, it is still fun exercise with my kids. While we were on vacation, we started every morning with a fun physical fitness activity like golf, racquetball, water volleyball, swimming laps and more. Get creative and make exercise fun. Your kids will love the time you spend with them burning calories and you are setting the example that exercise is important and fun.
So those are my seven SOS tips that have really been working for me this summer. How about you? Share your own SOS (snack off solutions) and check out my blog at www.managedmoms.com for more health, fitness and food ideas. Here's to smart summer snacking and here is the recipe for the No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Bars...
The Best No-Bake Bars You'll Ever Eat --
(from the website www.ihearexercisewillkillyou.com)
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil (be sure to use unrefined for the coconut flavor)
2 cups dry oats (not instant)
1 C shredded coconut
1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional)
1 1/4 cups dark chocolate chips
1 t vanilla extract
Melt peanut butter, honey and coconut oil over medium-low heat. Once melted, remove from heat and add oats, shredded coconut, chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir until chocolate is entirely melted. Pour into a 9x13 pan and cool in the fridge. When it's set, cut into bars and enjoy. Store in the fridge.