Have you ever seen a vending machine that dispensed apples?
Yeah, me neither. Yet I'm planning to take a spinning class at lunchtime and the only food available at the gym comes from the vending machine in the lobby. It's chock full of chips and candy. I could grab something on the way home, but the nearest restaurants are Taco Bell, Shakey's Ice Cream, a pizza place, and of course, McDonald's.
The solution? I'm going to pack an apple, a fat-free bologna sandwich, and some pistachios in my gym bag so I can appease my growling stomach after my workout.
At 5 PM, I'm taking my kids to a birthday party at the bowling alley. I've never been there, but I'm pretty sure they don't serve spinach salad or grilled fish at the food bar. And I can guarantee that I'll be offered pizza and birthday cake at the party. So I'll be surrounded by junk food with no healthy alternatives on the premises.
What can I do? I'm going to eat a light pre-dinner snack, something like a homemade fruit smoothie (ice, low-fat yogurt, blueberries, and a banana all blended up), and stash a baggie full of fresh grapes and a pack of gum in my purse. I'll arrive at the party with a full stomach, then happily munch away on the grapes or chew on the gum during cake and ice cream time. When I get home at 7 PM, I'll warm up some leftover dinner from last night that I've already set aside: baked chicken, brown rice, and edamame. Since my dinner is already made, I won't be tempted to scrounge around the kitchen for the quickest thing to put in my mouth.
The Benefits of Snacks
Planning ahead today will take me 10 or 15 minutes, but I'll wind up saving myself hundreds, if not thousands, of unwanted calories.
If you too are trying to find healthy snacks on the go, you may be facing these same challenges. It's time to start packing your snacks, and sometimes your meals, ahead of time so you don't wind up grazing on all the junk out there. You can save time by packing several days' worth of snacks in advance. Need some packable snack ideas?
- Divide a container of grapes into five baggies and toss one in your bag each day.
- Make a bowl of mixed fruit or homemade trail mix (avoid the stuff in the stores because it contains candy) and dispense it into Tupperware containers.
- Cook an extra chicken breast at dinner and save it for the next day.
- Purchase flavored tuna and cracker packs for a healthy afternoon snack.
- Always, always, always keep fresh fruit in the house. Grab a piece, toss it in your bag, and hit the road.
Prepacking your desserts is a good idea too. It's very difficult to eat ice cream, cookies, or chips in moderation. But if you can take a minute to pack small portions of jelly beans, chips, M&Ms, or a mini-muffin or two into separate containers, you can just stack them in the pantry and enjoy one each day. You'll get a sweet goody at the end of the day, but you'll know exactly how many calories and fat are in each pre-packaged portion of treats, and it'll be easier to stop there—before you devour a large amount.
It's like having your own prepared meal program (a la Jenny Craig or NutriSystem), except you're not paying someone else to do it!