This is the last and final installment of the 3 Part Series “Black Girls Exercise, Too”. In Part 1, I discussed why I run and how I started my current workout routine. In Part 2, I discussed how to stay motivated and exercise tips. In this Part I am going to discuss what I eat. I try to pack my lunch and snacks every day to save money but more importantly so that I have healthy food options when I’m hungry.
My diet changes were gradual. I started by cutting down my caffeine intake. Last summer I was up to 3-4 cups per day. I was putting in long hours professionally so I thought I needed it, but caffeine is NOT a sleep substitute. Do NOT rely on caffeine to keep you awake. For starters, it prevents you from losing weight since sleep aids in weight loss. (Did you know that?) Studies show that our bodies automatically burn fat while we sleep, so the less you sleep the fewer calories your body is burning…but, I digress.
Below is a typical list of the meals and snacks I eat daily and some options/tips that have worked for me.
Breakfast – Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich w/small Coffee (skim milk, sugar) We all know breakfast is the most important part of the day. I start my day with a pbj sandwich and usually a small coffee (my ONLY coffee for the day). I don’t know about you but I love the caramel syrup Dunkin Donuts uses in their iced drinks so I would add it to my iced coffee in the summer and my hot coffee during the winter…um WHY did I think that was okay? I realized that the calories in that caramel syrup are empty calories and not good for me. (Read about empty calories here.) I stopped adding the syrup to my drinks and stick with sugar, preferably raw sugar. There aren’t many differences between regular white sugar and sugar in the raw, but you can check out this this article to read about the differences in the process to make both. Personally I prefer unbleached sugar (and food). Thanks.
Snack 1 – Greek Yogurt with Honey & Almonds I like yogurt. It’s a quick easy snack, especially on the go but the sugar can add up so you have to be careful. When I heard about Greek yogurt I was sold. Not only is it also convenient, but each cup is packed with FOURTEEN grams of protein. My favorite brand is Fage because it comes with a little attachment of either fruit or honey. I buy the honey because even though sugar is not good for you honey is the lesser of two evils and I have a serious sweet tooth. If you love sweets, too, choosing honey or agave, which are both natural, is a much healthier alternative than regular sugar or syrup.
Lunch – Salad I buy two bagged salads per week. I dump both bags into a huge bowl, add a sliced cucumber and tomato into the bowl. This makes packing lunch quick and easy during the week. Every day I fill a bowl with this mixture then I add low-fat croutons in the corner of the bowl (try to keep them restricted to one side so they don’t get too soggy during the day). Next I add protein; I usually add dry tuna (1 can is usually enough for 3 salads). If I have chicken left over from dinner the night before I’ll slice up a piece and add it cold. I bought a tiny Tupperware bowl on ebay for salad dressing so I take about 2 teaspoons of my favorite low-fat dressing with me. I also add a sliced egg sometimes. This is a BORING lunch and not the tastiest but it fills me up, it’s quick and it’s relatively healthy.
Snack 2 – Fresh Fruit This summer I’ve been loving strawberries and cherries so I’ll usually wash a few, throw them in a bowl and take them with me for later. Sometimes I take bananas to work but you have to be really careful because they bruise easily during the commute. Of course apples come with me, too, sometimes.
Dinner – Protein, Starch & Veggies Protein: I’m not a big meat-eater. I don’t eat pork and rarely eat beef. Poultry and seafood are my proteins of choice so one of these two will likely be on my dinner plate. I’m thinking about phasing the poultry out and becoming a pescetarian again but I haven’t made the leap yet. Starch: I usually add brown rice, whole wheat pasta or whole wheat bread to the mix. I’m looking forward to experimenting with quinoa and couscous in the near future, I recently purchased both. Also, sweet potatoes are the business! Veggies: Sometimes I eat my bagged salad mix if I don’t have any other fresh veggies to saute or steam. Otherwise I’ll heat up a can of veggies from the market. But, BE CAREFUL, canned veggies can have a lot of sodium. Make sure you get low sodium and check the label before you purchase it.
Snack 3 – Oatmeal My “midnight snack” is oatmeal. Oatmeal provides a balance of carbohydrates, fat and protein, so it’s a healthy choice day or night. It helps prevent heart disease and studies have shown that Oatmeal can help lower cholesterol. It also keeps you full for a long period of time because it’s packed with fiber. Again, make sure whatever brand you buy is low in sugar, if it has any at all. If it doesn’t have added sugar you can add cinnamon, honey, agave, fresh fruit, nuts, etc. for a little extra flavor.
Tea – Varies Right now my nighttime tea of choice is Get Clean which I bought from Whole Foods. This caffeine-free herbal tea claims to help stimulate the liver, one of the body’s natural cleansing mechanisms. It’s light and doesn’t have much of a taste. I don’t add any sweetener, I drink it plain. I also love peppermint tea, green tea and ginger tea.
This article, Save Over 300 Calories with Simple Winter Drink Swaps, has great examples of small ways you can cut down your caloric intake. These tiny changes will help you live a little longer and feel better.
Have you made any diet changes lately? What made you change your diet? Please share below and hopefully you can inspire someone.