While it’s ideal to prepare all of our own snacks and meals each day, the truth is that most of us don’t have that kind of time. This is when we turn to convenience foods to meet our diet and weight loss needs. However, the right convenience foods in the right amounts can easily be included in almost any diet.
Smart Shopping — Never shop on an empty stomach. It will only make it harder for you to make the choices that are in your best interest. Always be ready with a complete shopping list and don’t deviate from it. If an aisle is full of mouthwatering dishes but nothing is on your list, just walk beside it, instead of walking down it. If you see something healthy that you want but aren’t on your list, jot it down and add it to the list next time. It will give you something to look forward to.
Get smaller bags and boxes for what you need when possible. The less food you leave in the kitchen, the less tempted you will be.
Read labels — Not all ready meals are created equal. Depending on the diet you have chosen, some will fit your routine much better than others. That’s why it’s important to be a savvy consumer and never put anything in your grocery cart without reading the label and determining that it’s in your best interest to buy it.
Many snacks come in a variety of flavors — low fat, low fat, low calorie, low carb, low salt, and more. Choose the variety that best fits your dieting needs.
Remember that different labels can mean entirely different things. The following list may help you discern between them:
No calorie: Less than 5 calories per serving
Low calorie: Less than 0 calories per serving (or less than 120 calories per meal)
Reduced calorie: 25% less calories than the same amount of a similar food
No fat: Less than 0.5g fat per serving
Low fat: Less than 3g fat per serving (less than 30% of calories from fat per meal)
Low saturated fat: Less than 1g fat per serving
Reduced fat: 25% less fat than the same amount of a similar food
No cholesterol: Less than 2mg cholesterol per serving
Low cholesterol: Less than 20mg cholesterol per serving
Reduced cholesterol: 25% less cholesterol than the same amount of a similar food
No salt: Less than 5mg sodium per serving
Low salt: Less than 1 0mg sodium per serving
Reduced salt: 25% less sodium than the same amount of a similar food
No sugar: Less than 0.5g sugar per serving
Low sugar: No requirements make sure to read the label
Reduced sugar: 25% less sugar than the same amount of a similar food
As you can see, eating six servings of a no-fat food can actually total as much as 3g of fat. For someone who is severely restricting their fat intake, this can greatly hinder their progress. ItÕs best to be informed and make wise shopping decisions. Accept and take responsibility.
Cut Fat — Just because a frozen dinner of macaroni and cheese melts the cheese doesn’t mean you have to eat it. A sensible approach to preparing and eating convenience foods can greatly benefit health.
When taking out a frozen meal to stir, remove or wipe off excess oil and grease. Transfer to a real plate when you’re done, so you can discard excess sauce.
If rice or pasta requires a tablespoon of butter, choose a teaspoon of soy margarine or olive oil instead. In the end, your rice will taste the same and you won’t have to deal with all those extra calories.
Milk and cookies are a perennial favorite, but try milk and cookies next time. Experiment with jellies and spreads instead of regular mayonnaise and butter for toppings.
Portion Control — It’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve eaten when drinking or eating straight from the container. Follow up by carefully measuring portions before you start eating.
When buying foods like chips or cookies, look for exact servings on the nutrition label. As soon as you get home, divide the larger bag into individual portions in small plastic bags.
In the same way, when snacking on a food, separate an individual portion and place it separately on a plate or bowl. Then put the food away just before you start eating to avoid temptation.
Try not to make the original packages easily accessible. Buying a bag sealer is more efficient than using chip pliers as you are less likely to cut the bag than simply open the bag. Heavy tape and hard-to-open containers can also do the trick.
Fast food — Ideally, fast food should be avoided. However, the ever-expanding menus of many major fast-food chains now offer a plethora of options that can suit a variety of diets.
Look for baked goods rather than fried foods. Choose alternate sides instead of fries if possible. Many chains also offer salads and yogurts.
Ask for a replacement if a menu item isn’t quite ideal. For example, you can ask for a burger without bread or you can ask for a burger without a burger. If you can’t substitute, change yourself before you eat it, i.e. toss your burger in a nearby trash can or toss half of your fries.
Make your own — There’s no rule that only store-bought prepackaged foods are convenient. Take time on weekends or holidays to shop mindfully and cook a delicious meal or two that you enjoy. Divide into portions and refrigerate (or freeze) if needed.
Buy fruits, vegetables, cold cuts and cheeses for snacks and prepare them in advance by chopping