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Snacks: Best Low Calorie Dairy Snacks

Snacks are no longer considered to be ‘bad’ or a diet taboo. These days, as long as you watch your calorie intake and choose wisely, you can graze on small meals and low calorie snacks several times daily and still maintain or even lose weight. So, what is the criteria for ‘healthy’ snacks? Keep the following in mind when choosing your snacks:

  • Offer between 100 and 200 calories
  • Are fat-controlled, providing 0g trans fats and 3g saturated fat or less per serving
  • Are relatively low in sodium; strive to limit the sodium in your low calorie snacks to 400mg or less
  • Are nutrient-rich: a good food source of protein, dietary fiber and/or key vitamin and minerals (such as iron, vitamins A, C or calcium)
  • Offer a little something extra: are available in calorie-controlled portions, contain no high-fructose corn syrup and little added sugar; are gluten- or lactose-free, have added omega-3 fatty acids, etc…

There are low calorie snacks for every craving: sweet, smooth and creamy, crunchy and salty and everything in-between. For part 1, we will concentrate on those that fall under the ‘dairy’ category, such as cheese, milk, puddings, etc. Unless you are lactose intolerant, or have an allergy to milk, there is no reason to avoid dairy products. These snacks are all about convenience – they are widely available and take no preparation time/work.

Dairy: Top 5 low calorie snacks

Cheese snacks

  • Cabot 75% reduced-fat sharp cheddar (block) or Laughing Cow mini Babybel light cheese rounds (individually wrapped, comes in small bags). These cheeses offer less fat but lots of flavor without being rubbery. Cheese is rich in both protein and calcium. A 2-oz. serving of the 75% reduced-fat Cabot sharp cheddar (lactose-free) provides 120 calories, 5g fat, 3g saturated fat, 18g protein and 400mg sodium. Two Babybel cheese rounds provide 100 calories, 6g fat, 3g saturated fat, 12g protein and 320mg sodium.

Fermented dairy snacks (yogurt & kefir)

  • There aren’t many snacks that compare in texture and flavor to Greek yogurt. Though more expensive than other varieties, the difference is substantial. Choose plain or flavored, non-fat varieties and you’ll stay under 150 calories and take in more protein that you would choosing regular yogurt. If you like a little crunch try YoGreek vanilla + granola. It comes in a 4.6-oz. cup with a little ‘sidecar’ of granola. The snack provides 140 calories, .5g fat, 11g protein, 22g carbohydrates and is a good source of calcium.
  • Kefir is a thick dairy beverage (like ‘drinkable’ yogurt) made by fermenting milk with kefir grains (lactic acid bacteria, yeast and polysaccharides). It’s a tangy, slightly effervescent drink that promotes digestive health and supports a healthy immune system. Choose non-fat or low-fat plain or flavored for snacks that are high in protein and  calcium. This fermented dairy beverage also contains magnesium, riboflavin and vitamin B12. One cup of low-fat strawberry kefir provides about 140 calories, 2g fat, 11g protein and 20g carbohydrates.

Sweet snacks

  • All Kozy Shack puddings are made with only all natural ingredients. They come in a variety of sizes (including ‘snack’ packs) and many flavors though the original rice pudding was the first and is a favorite. A 1/2 cup serving provides 130 calories, 2.5g fat, 4g protein and 24g carbohydrates. It’s also a good source of calcium and is a treat. They also make ‘no added sugar’ puddings that are sweetened with Splenda and offer only 70 calories per serving.
  • Who doesn’t love chocolate milk? It was good for you when you were a child and is still a great choice, especially as a post-workout snack. Obviously regular chocolate milk does have lactose and sugar…to cut back on the sugar try Nesquik ready-to-drink no sugar added reduced-fat chocolate milk (comes in 8-oz. bottles). One serving provides 100 calories, 2g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 8g protein, 13g carbohydrates and less than 200mg sodium.

Snacks are back in vogue – stay tuned for best low-calorie snacks part 2!

Amazing Waves of Grain…

You know all about whole grains, right? Brown rice, whole wheat bread AND oatmeal fit the bill. But…what else is out there that can pump up both the variety and the nutrition of the grains you, and your family, choose? Try out the hottest trends in the grain family: quinoa, amaranth and spelt.

Quinoa: a grain known to come in multiple colors and textures

Quinoa has been cultivated in the South American mountainous regions for over 5,000 years as a staple of the native Indian diet. Although considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables. It is birdseed-shaped and mild-flavored. Use it as a substitute for rice in casseroles, in soups and stews, or as a hot cereal. Unlike all other grains mentioned, quinoa is a high-quality protein source, containing all of the essential amino acids, like protein in animal products. A 1/4 cup of this grain, dry, provides 170 calories, 2.5 g fat, 30 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber and 7 g protein.

“Quinoa contains 700% more iron than the same serving size of enriched white rice! It’s a protein-rich grain, and a good source of calcium.”

Amaranth: a high-protein grain

Amaranth is technically both a vegetable and a grain (leaves of the plant are the vegetable and the seeds are the grain). It has been cultivated as a vegetable crop by early civilizations over 2,000 years ago, and continues to be used world-wide. However, it didn’t gain support in the U.S. until 1975.

Amaranth can be cooked as a cereal, popped like popcorn, sprouted, or toasted and is a good source of protein, calcium and iron. Seeds can be ground into flour for use in baked goods or pasta. Amaranth flour must be mixed with other flours when baking yeast breads (1 part amaranth flour to 3-4 parts other flours) but for non-yeast baked goods (flatbreads and pancakes), you can use 100% amaranth flour. A 1/4 cup, dry, provides 190 calories, 3.5 g fat, 34 grams (g)  carbohydrate, 7 g dietary fiber and 8 g protein

Spelt: a zinc-rich slow cooking grain

Spelt, a distant cousin to wheat, has a deep nutlike flavor.

“Interestingly, spelt does not seem to cause sensitivities in most people who are wheat intolerant.”

Spelt is available in flour form and is available in its hulled, whole grain form (referred to as spelt berries), which can be prepared and eaten like rice. Spelt is an excellent source of zinc, vitamin B2 and manganese. Use spelt bread for a hearty sandwich or combine spelt pasta with olives, tomatoes and feta cheese for a quick and easy Mediterranean dish. Be adventurous and add some tasty ‘old’ grains to your diet! A 1/4 cup, dry, offers 150 calories, 1.5 g fat, 32 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber and 6 g protein.

Tips for Eating Meatless ~ Tofu and Soy Crumbles

One important step towards eating healthier and watching your calories is to eat one meatless meal per week. What to do? It’s easy. I enjoy eating meatless meals because it keeps my diet varied versus boring and stale. Here one tip I use myself that will get you started!

Try tofu and soy crumbles.

    These are mild-tasting and absorb the seasonings and flavor of whatever you cook them with. Perfect for tacos or spaghetti as a meat replacement.

While tofu can be an acquired taste for some, it comes in many varieties and flavors, and can be grilled, sautéed, scrambled…even fried or stir-fried. Tofu comes in firm and soft textures (soft is a great protein addition to smoothies) and is often used as an ingredient. I bought an all-tofu decadent chocolate cake from a gourmet bakery. It was completely all natural and vegan. Guess what? My non-vegetarian, hates health food brother in law didn’t know the difference! They used silken tofu in the cake, and yes, it can be that good.

A meat-lover wouldn’t even know the difference, with soy crumbles that is. They used to be packaged as a grain-like product that needed to be re-hydrated to take form.

“Now, frozen, bagged, re-hydrated soy crumbles (textured vegetable protein) can be found in the frozen food section and poured into your favorite spaghetti sauce or chili recipe.”