Most of my life, I thought that if I was going to eat low-fat, low-calorie, good-for-you foods, I was going to have to resign myself to eating nothing but spinach and cardboard. Lucky for me, in recent years I've developed a joy of eating spinach. Cardboard, though? I think I'll pass on that.
A few months ago, I started yet another weight loss program. I've tried almost everything out there. This time I'm doing Jenny Craig.
As with all weight loss programs, there are pros and cons to it. The biggest con? Cost. Jenny Craig offers prepackaged, pre-portioned meals that you purchase from them, you add your own fresh fruits, veggies, and dairy, and you lose weight. Those meals they offer are not cheap--not even remotely. Doing this program can be a huge drain on the budget.
One of the pros with the program, though, is that they don't want you to continue eating their expensive food forever. They want you to learn proper portion size, how to balance all the different components of a meal, and then begin to gradually switch to eating more of your meals by figuring it out for yourself as you go.
For me, it didn't take long before I found a number of comparable, good, enticing foods I could use for my breakfasts that would be much easier on the budget. I started eating more of those, and a few weeks ago I decided to completely do breakfast by myself. So far, so good. I'm still eating breakfast every day. I'm getting variety in my breakfasts. And I'm keeping the calories and portions in check.
My next task for myself, though, is trying to figure out my daily snacks and/or dessert. This one has not proven to be such an easy task.
There are a lot of products out there that you might think would be a good solution. How many times have you gone down the grocery aisles and just grabbed a few boxes of those 100 Calorie Packs? I have done that some...but then I looked at the nutrition content. Frankly, most of those really aren't that great for you. They'll do in a pinch, but they don't have the protein, fiber, and other good things I'm really looking for in a snack. They are pretty much just smaller, portion-controlled servings of the regular snack food.
I've found Kashi products that will work, and there are a number of Fiber One products that are fine...but sometimes, I really want a brownie or some of this amazing Buffalo Chicken Dip that Ava Stone introduced me to.
So I've started coming up with ways to have those sorts of snacks, but improving the nutritional content of them so I don't feel bad about it.
Take that Buffalo Chicken Dip, for example. If you use low-fat or fat-free cream cheese, all white meat chicken, make your own ranch dip by using fat-free plain Greek yogurt and ranch mix, and use low-fat or fat-free shredded cheese...it's really not that bad for you. Then find a good multi-grain baked chip that you like to dip in it, and have a tray of raw veggies sitting nearby in case you feel like dipping those...and you've got a party snack you can feel good about.
Then there are the brownies. I'm a sucker for brownies, and Jenny Craig has one that is low-fat and low-calorie, high in fiber, and has a moderate amount of protein...but it tastes amazing! Still, it costs $2.49 or so just for a single brownie. That's kind of outrageous when you can bake an entire batch of traditional brownies for about that same cost. I started looking for ways to make my own, comparable brownies, and I came up with this. Buy a box of brownie mix. Instead of adding eggs, oil, etc., add a can of pumpkin (I've also heard pureed black beans would work great, but I haven't tried it). Combine it all, put it into mini-muffin cups, sprinkle some chopped walnuts on top, and bake until they're done. Two of them are a serving, and they have added fiber and much less fat than they would otherwise. Plus, they're small and easy to freeze the extras, so I can have them later. They aren't EXACTLY the same in taste and texture as regular brownies. The texture is quite a bit more fudgey, and you can taste that there's something in it that isn't what you expect, but it's hard to pick out the fact that it's pumpkin. But they'll definitely satisfy most of my brownie cravings.
While I've found some things that will work, I'm still looking for other snacks and desserts that meet both my nutritional needs and my cravings. Do you have any recipes you can share? What's your go-to when you really have a sweet tooth, but don't want to splurge on something unhealthy?
I'm sad to say that this will be my last blog post with Lady Scribes. I'll still stop by to check in on the other ladies from time to time, though. It's been a joy!