TOLEDO, Ohio — For many participants in the annual Super Fitness Weight Loss Challenge, one of the most difficult parts of the program is managing their diet.
We all like to have snacks throughout the day and, most times the easiest or quickest option isn't usually the best choice.
We spoke with a registered dietitian at Mercy Weight Management Center in Toledo about quick and easy food swaps that can help meet our goals.
Registered dietitian Maddie Perry said swapping out certain foods won't deprive you of the taste you might be craving.
"We are showing different ideas for popular snacks, drinks and desserts," she said. "You can always make a better choice by quick changes and easy things you can purchase at the grocery store."
Snacks are the place to start. While many families have fruit snacks in the pantry for the kids, adults also tend to grab them because they're quick and convenient. Fruit snacks may not have the nutritional value you want in a snack, however, Perry said.
"You think about fruit snacks being a healthy choice because they have fruit in the name, but typically, they have a lot of added sugars in them," Perry said.
Although they are fun, it's better to do a bowl of fruit such as blueberries and grapes. She said fresh fruit will help keep you energized throughout the day and you get more than a half-dozen gummy snacks.
"You'll get more fiber there, which will help fill you up and keep you full for longer and it's going to fix that sweet craving that you have," she said.
If you crave a snack that's savory or salty, instead of reaching for the Cheez-It's, grab some cheese and crackers.
Cheese cubes, or any cheese, are a great source of protein and will help you feel full for longer.
Cheese is also great for recovery after a workout, Perry said.
If you add crackers, grab whole-grain varieties such as Wheat Thins. Perry said they have more fiber, you can eat more of them, and they will fuel you for a longer time period.
And finally, chips are always a guilty pleasure.
Perry said if you want something crunchy like chips, reach for raw vegetables or nuts.
"A vegetable tray with a ranch or low-fat dressing will help satisfy the crunch and it will take you a long time to eat," she said. "Raw nuts will give you those healthy fats that you want and keep you full."
In the drink category, Perry said you should always choose water.
If you're someone who likes to start their day with some juice, Perry cautioned to be careful what brands you grab because many drinks have more sugar than we realize.
"You would think that would be a good choice because it's got that fruit in the name, but regular apple juice has six teaspoons of sugar in it," she said.
Instead of the juice, just eat the apple itself, she recommends. It will give you fiber and the juice won't.
Fiber is really important to weight loss or weight management because it is what keeps you full, she said.
Sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade are typically used as a recovery drink, but Perry said some people like to sip on them throughout the day.
"Instead of drinking a regular sports drink throughout the day, maybe try something similar to Crystal Light packets," she said.
She also recommends adding fresh fruit to water as a way to add more flavor. If you feel like you have to have juice or a sports drink, an alternative is adding water because it will cut some of the sugar.
A sports drink is not something to cut out entirely though. Perry said this would be what you should drink after a workout or if you've exerted yourself for an hour.
"They are tricky drinks, they've got the electrolytes that you lose throughout all the sweating that you're doing throughout your exercise," she said. "If you are going 60 minutes or longer, it might be good to replenish with this. Otherwise, don't sip on it throughout the day."
Desserts are good in moderation.
"It's fine to have a sweet tooth, I have one too, even though I am a dietitian," she said.
If ice cream is where you like to indulge, she said that's fine, but keep in mind a typical pint of ice cream contains about three servings.
A healthy alternative to ice cream would be non-fat yogurt that is vanilla flavored.
Perry said you can add peanut butter, chocolate chips, or any other topping to substitute it for your favorite ice cream.
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