Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My "Gotta' Have It" Food Staples

Hello all! Since I've now filled you guys in on some of my favorite exercise programs, I thought the next logical thing to do would be to let you know what some of my favorite healthy foods are, my food staples, healthy foods that I eat on a regular basis and would never want to live without. Let me start out by saying that I AM NO NUTRITIONIST. I don't claim to know everything about healthy eating and I would never want you to start eating the foods I suggest based on some knowledge that I have portrayed myself as having. I only know what works for me. Also, another fact to consider is I am no longer trying to lose weight, as of now I am maintaining so even though I would classify the foods I will mention as "healthy", if you are still on your journey of weight loss, you'll want to stick to the healthy eating plan that hopefully you're already on and make your own judgments on whether you'd like to add these foods to your diet. Personally I don't think you can go wrong with any of these foods, but everyone's body is different (a diet plan that works for you, may not work for me and vice versa) so please, choose wisely.

I'm a big believer of food not only being a source of fuel for your body but for enjoyment as well. I don't think just because something is healthy it has to taste bad. As you start on your weight loss journey, you may start eating fruits, vegetables and other new healthy foods that you aren't used to eating and for awhile they may not taste as good to you as the unhealthy foods you're used to eating, but eventually your tastes buds change and you realize that it's not that those healthy foods taste bad, they just were so different from what you were used to eating before that you couldn't really appreciate them. All the foods I'm going to list are not only good for you but taste great as well! So I think that even if you are just beginning to switch over to a healthier diet, you'll have no problems. So let's get to it!

My "Gotta' Have It" Food Staples:

Quaker Oatmeal To Go Breakfast Bars
A favorite breakfast item that I eat almost every morning are Quaker Oatmeal To Go Breakfast Bars. At 220 calories, they are a great source of fiber and equal 20% of your daily vitamins A and B6, as well as calcium and iron. And on top of all of that, they taste great, too!  There are several different flavors available and I've tried almost all of them, but my favorite would have to be the Apples with Cinnamon. And here's a tip, while they don't require any cooking at all, try putting the package in the microwave for around 10 or 15 seconds, they'll be warm and gooey and make a wonderfully warm breakfast treat!

Special K Original Cereal
My favorite cereal is an oldie but a goodie and that's Special K Original Cereal. No sugar or artificial sweetener needed, it's good all by itself. This is the one cereal that I always make sure I have in my cabinet. It's healthy and tasty and that's always a plus! I will give you a word of advice though, eating a healthy cereal is only beneficial when you follow the recommended serving size which is one cup. That's a mistake that most people always make and I was guilty of this for years. You think since you're only eating cereal, and especially if it's a healthy cereal, that you're free to have a huge bowl full, but those calories add up when you exceed the recommended serving amount. More cereal equals more milk which means even more calories! You've officially defeated the whole purpose! So keep that in mind.

Better' N Eggs
I'm not a huge egg eater but when I do eat eggs, I eat an egg substitute, and after trying a few, my preference is the Better' N Eggs brand. Better' N Eggs can be used anytime - for omelets, scrambled eggs, quiches, protein smoothies or any recipe that calls for eggs. I know some people prefer natural eggs but Better' N Eggs actually are natural, they are made from real eggs but are fat-free and cholesterol-free. Why an egg substitute? Egg yolks are high in fat, calories and cholesterol. Better' N Eggs is 98% real liquid egg whites with added nutrients. In addition to being fat-free, cholesterol-free and low calorie, Better' N Eggs is also high in vitamins A, B-12, D and E plus essential nutrients such as folic acid and riboflavin. They truly are better than eggs! You should give 'em a try!

Bumble Bee Chicken Salad w/ Crackers
Lunch time!!! So what are you gonna' eat? My favorite lunch meal that I eat almost everyday is Bumble Bee Chicken Salad w/ Crackers. I truly eat this almost every single day! I'll admit, they can be a little hard to find, but you can always buy them online which I think I'm actually going to start doing because I love it so much. I was a little skeptical at first because a lot of pre-made chicken salads do not taste good, but this one is really tasty! If you read my very first blog post you know that I used to be on NutriSystem and that's the diet I used to lose a majority of my weight. Well this meal is actually a NutriSystem equivalent! How cool is that?!? There's a site that I go on from time to time called "Recipe Xchange" that lists NutriSystem comparison meals as a way of doing NutriSystem on your own and this Bumble Bee Chicken Salad meal kit is listed there as a substitute for NS' chicken salad lunch meal. So whenever I eat this I know if I go wrong with any other meal of the day, at least I've had one meal that was on target! Gotta' love that!

Healthy Ones Lunch Meat
When I don't have my Bumble Bee Chicken Salad for lunch, I usually just make a sandwich and the lunch meat I choose is Healthy Ones. There are a number of different meats to choose from: lean ham, lean turkey breast, lean chicken breast and roast beef. No matter which one you choose, they are all 97% fat free. No by-products, no artificial flavors and no artificial sweeteners. The slices are pretty thin, but 4 slices equal one serving which is still only 60 calories, so I always feel pretty full.

Healthy Life Bread
So what about bread? With all the concern about carbs, do you eat bread? If so, which one? And how do you know if it's healthy or not? Well I do definitely eat bread and I have been fortunate enough to find a bread that is only 40 calories per slice, 7 Net Carbs, 98% fat free, no trans fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, a good source of fiber, sugar free, no high fructose corn syrup, and 21 grams of whole grain per serving. So what is the name of his miracle bread? Healthy Life Bread. There are several different kinds to choose from, Whole Wheat, Whole Wheat Whole Grain, Rye Bread, White Bread, Italian Bread and more. No matter what flavor you choose, it's all healthy! They also have a line of hamburger and hot dog buns which I eat as well. Healthy Life Bread can be found at most grocery stores but primarily only in the MidWest (unfortunately for you West, East and South coasters) but I'm pretty sure if you're really interested you probably could buy somewhere online.

Kraft Oven Fry
One thing that is constant in my diet is chicken. I LOVE CHICKEN! I literally could eat chicken morning, noon, and night. There are so many ways to eat it! You can bake it, broil it, boil it, fry it, roast it, and even bar-b-que it! But since I turned over a new leaf and have joined the healthy way of living, I no longer have frying as an option. But I have found a way to get the taste of fried chicken without the grease and the need for a frying pan and that's with Kraft Oven Fry! I LOVE THIS PRODUCT!!! So much that it makes me want to stock up just in case they ever stop making it! It's basically like Shake and Bake but tastes a whole lot better! It truly is like eating fried chicken! One tip that I have for you  is to still season your meat with whatever seasonings you usually put on your chicken, then follow the steps on the back of the box, which are to coat with egg, and then coat with Kraft Oven Fry mix, put in pan and bake. It's that simple! If you like chicken, particularly fried chicken, you've got to give this a try! This makes not frying chicken ever again totally possible, giving you a new, healthier alternative! You can find it at any grocery store and lots of places online.

Morningstar Farms Veggie Burgers
I'm no vegetarian but there are lots of benefits to eating vegetarian food or just simply cutting out some of the meat in your diet. One way that I do that is by eating Morningstar Farms Veggie Burgers. Now I could lie and say that they taste like real burgers but I would be lying. They don't taste like the real thing, but they do taste really good and come pretty close. Especially once you top it with lettuce, tomato, and condiments of your choice. You can even add cheese for added protein! I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about veggie burgers but I've tried several different brands and these are the best. (A close second would be BOCA burgers, if Morningstar Farms doesn't work for you, you might want to check BOCA out - it's all a matter of personal taste.)

Hidden Valley Fat Free Ranch
As you can probably tell by now, I try to live in a low fat/fat free world. So it should come as no surprise that I choose to eat fat free salad dressing. My favorite salad dressing of all time is Ranch and the best fat free Ranch dressing that I've found (and I've tried many!) is Hidden Valley Fat Free Ranch. I use it for salads, as a dip, and even as a condiment for sandwiches! If you're looking for a great tasting fat free Ranch dressing, look no more, this is it! 
"Sugar free" are also two words I always look for in a product. I try to eliminate as much sugar out of my diet as I can. (I haven't drank soda going on 4 years, I try not to drink a lot of juice, and I don't even own a bag of sugar.) The best sugar substitute/artificial sweetener hands down is Splenda! It's the only one I use and I use it religiously! It's good anytime you need something to be a little sweeter, whether that be sliced fruit, cereal, milk, shakes, or smoothies. And how can you go wrong with 0 calories? That's my kind of product!
Sugar Free Drink Mix
While we're on the subject of sugar free, I mentioned above that I don't drink soda and try not to drink a lot of juice, so what does that leave? WATER! Water, water and more water! Water is great all by itself but you can only drink so much plain water before it gets old, and believe me, it gets old quick! So my answer to that would be sugar free drink mixes! I live on these! There's Crystal Light, of course, but there are also cheaper, just as good, alternatives, such as Target's Market Pantry Sugar Free Drink Mix, Wyler's Light Sugar Free Mix and Hawaiian Punch Sugar Free Mix (both of which can be found at grocery stores, Walgreen's, CVS', and dollar stores). No matter which brand you choose (I use all 4) there are lots of different flavors and I'm sure you'll find some that you like!

 Cool Whip Free
Another sugar free, healthy alternative is Cool Whip Free. I actually use this a lot, for smoothies, fruit, healthy sweet treats,... etc. Basically anytime you would want to use Cool Whip you can use Cool Whip Free instead. The taste is virtually the same.

A couple of healthy sweet treats that I put Cool Whip Free on are my Vitalicious VitaMuffins and VitaTops. If you've never heard of Vitalicious you have GOT to check them out! While I'm not a big fan of chocolate desserts or chocolate in general, I Iove Vitalicious' Deep Chocolate VitaTops! They're my favorite! The taste is so great, it's kind of shocking that they're healthy. Only 100 calories per serving, low-fat, contains 15 vitamins & minerals, soy and oat bran (hence the name "Vitalicious"), no artificial additives or preservatives, and high in fiber (5-6g per serving), leaving you feeling full because fiber-rich foods take longer to digest. They are plenty of flavors to choose from so go on over to vitalicious.com and check 'em out! They are mostly an online company but you can find them at some local grocery and specialty stores.

Yoplait Light Yogurt
One snack/dessert that I constantly keep in my fridge is Yoplait Light Yogurt. Lots of flavors, great tasting, 99% fat free, only 100 calories. Another added benefit to yogurt (not just the Yoplait brand but yogurt in general) that a lot of people don't realize is that yogurt actually helps with bad breath! It's a proven fact that eating yogurt keeps your breath fresher. So keeping this as a staple has more benefits than originally thought!

Protein/Fiber Bars
Two snacks bars that I always make sure to stay stocked up on are South Beach Protein Bars and Fiber One Bars. My favorites are the South Beach Cinnamon Raisin Protein Bar and the Fiber One Oats & Chocolate Bar. Both brands have plenty of flavors to choose from and are great as a low cal snack. The South Beach Protein Bars are great for eating on days you work out - especially on those days when you are doing weight/strength training because adding more protein on those days helps the building of muscle. The Fiber One bars are full of fiber and are just great as a snack because you will feel full much longer because of the fiber.

Fruits and Vegetables
Last but not least are FRUITS AND VEGETABLES! Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that may help protect you from chronic diseases. Compared with people who consume a diet with only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers. That's one thing I like about fruits and vegetables, YOU CAN NEVER EAT TOO MUCH! Some would argue that point, but in my opinion, fruits and vegetables are good calories and the amount of calories are fairly low, so pile up your plate! You have to watch it when you're eating fruits higher in sugar, such as bananas for example, but in general, you can't go wrong! Apples, Carrots, Broccoli, Bananas, Strawberries, Grapes, Nectarines, Peaches, Salad, Tomatoes, Zucchini, Spinach... etc., there's so much to choose from! Try everything and find the fruits and vegetables that you like the most. There's always something new to try from season to season.

So that's it! The complete list of my "Gotta' Have It!" Food Staples. There are many more food suggestions that I will suggest in this blog but these are the ones that I wouldn't want to live without. Check 'em out and let me know what you think! See ya'!

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