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Monday, August 12, 2013

Making Those OMG Yummy Favorites a Little (or a Lot) Healthier

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!

16 comments:

  1. We're sorry to see you go, Catherine. Best of luck to you! I know it's not goodbye, though. :) Hopefully readers will have some good ideas for satisfying snacks, because I could use some too.

    I love dips, so sometimes I make guacamole and eat it with carrot sticks.

    I'll put a banana in the refrigerator and have it for a decent alternative to running for frozen yogurt. Erin mentioned something about making ice cream with frozen bananas, but I can't remember what the kitchen gadget was called. I just remember her saying she bought it at Sears.

    I love the Greek yogurts. Those are very satisfying to me. The Chobani pineapple is my favorite. And sometimes I make a shake out of vanilla Kefir, frozen berries, a tablespoon of all fruit jelly to cut the tartness, and a tablespoon flax oil. It gives it a smoother texture and it's good for you. I'll also make a green juice with coconut milk, pineapple, kale, cucumber, and anything else that sounds good, like a slice of cake. LOL. JK! No cake. ;)

    Oh, if you like Nacho Cheese Doritos, the Fire Roasted Tomato Triscuits have a similar taste. You just have to be sure to pull out a serving size and put the box back. They are good with Laughing Cow Cheese, too. Cheddar is the best. And speaking of cheddar, my kids love red grapes and low-fat cheddar cheese squares on a toothpick. It feels fancy to them and it's oddly a great combo.

    I'm going to try the brownies with my kids. They may notice something is different, but I bet they will eat them.

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    1. It's a Yonanas! I have one too.

      Have you tried the Healthy Choice Greek frozen yogurts? They are fantastic, and have the same nutritional content as Greek yogurt, but it totally satisfies my ice cream cravings.

      Those are some great suggestions, Samantha. Thanks! And no, it's definitely not goodbye. :)

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    2. I haven't tried the Healthy Choice Greek frozen yogurt, but I will now. I love ice cream, so it would be great to have something to satisfy the craving.

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  2. Sounds great, Catherine! Good luck to you!

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  3. These sound yummy!! Best of luck to you xx

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  4. I've tried the pumpkin/cake mix recipe for cupcakes. They are moist and good, but I like pumpkin.

    So sad to see you go! :-( It's a good thing you are close now and I can still get my CG fix. :-)

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    1. I still haven't tried the black bean version. It's next on the agenda. But like you, I love pumpkin. It's not a hardship for me to use it.

      We need to have another writing date soon!

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    2. I once made chocolate chip cookies using garbanzo beans. It was more like a tiny cake than a cookie, but I liked them. I got the recipe from Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook about hiding veggies from kids.

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    3. I'll have to look into that cookbook! I'm all about getting more veggies into my diet, and hiding them seems like a great plan even for me some days. LOL.

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  5. I love fresh fruit a lot. Watermelon or nectarines are so sweet and decadent. If you want something salty, drain a can of garbanzo beans, spread on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt and roast in the oven at 350 degrees, turning often. After around 45 minutes, they are crispy and are like munching on nuts.

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    1. That's a great idea about roasting garbanzo beans, Connie! Thanks!

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    2. Awesome idea! I'm totally trying that tonight! :)

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  6. Sweets are the hardest part of any diet for me, Catherine. I live for cookies, cupcakes, and brownies. Don't care about ice cream or even regular cake, but put one of those three in front of me and I will mow over everything to get to them. Ahem. Can't say as I have any healthy alternatives because I like mine loaded with sugar! :D
    Sorry you're leaving us. :( Will see you around, I have no doubt. ;)

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    1. Lol, Andris. I've learned to allow myself all things...in moderation.

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