Friday, September 30, 2011

Weight Loss Help and Tips

Weight Loss Help and Tips

13 Healthy snack ideas for weight loss

Posted: 29 Sep 2011 11:22 PM PDT

To help you stay within your weight loss goals we have gathered 13 healthy snacks for weight loss you can safely try out without the risk of gaining extra weight. The usual source of those extra and often unhealthy calories is the 'snack time'. I like to say that healthy or not if you can avoid snacks then do avoid them all together. If you are following a healthy balanced diet plan then you don't need to snack; you are providing your body with enough calories and food to take you through the day.

However, I must admit that it is not always that simple. I am the first to put my hand up and say that I forever struggle to have nice, easy, healthy snacks which will not topple my calorie counter.

After long planning, I have collected 13 healthy snacks for weight loss to try out. I am employing a 'kiss', 'marry' 'avoid' system. I am actually stealing this phrase from a British TV series but I think it works great when it comes to choosing foods. So for my version of choosing snacks 'kiss' means eat in moderation; it could be that they are either high in calories or may not be as good if consumed in large amounts. 'Marry' as much as you like and it is for life (these are the best snacks for weight loss) and 'avoid' I think is self-explanatory.

Healthy snack foods for weight loss

1. Vegetables. (Marry)

Vegetables as a healthy snackVegetables can make a great snack. They are low in fat and depending how you have them they can be very low in calories. There is a huge variety of vegetables and there are numerous different ways in having them as a snack which means that they can cover most tastes. You can eat them raw, cut them into sticks or as part of a small salad or grill them, boil them and so on.

Above all most vegetables are full of fibre, minerals, antioxidants, vitamins and so on. In simple words they can be all around rich in nutrients and can be very beneficial to health.

Why Not…cut carrots, celery cucumber and peppers into strips and have them with homemade salsa (pre-prepared dips can be high in sugars and preservatives).

Why Not… slice courgettes (zucchini) aubergine and peppers and grill them. You can eat them on their own or with some low fat cheese.     

2. A bag of salad (Marry)

Salad bagOk technically it is the same as vegetables. This snack is for those who pick and are likely to go for a packet for crisps. Someone will argue that picking on a bag of salad is not the same as picking on a bag of crisps. Well no it is not, salad is healthy, very low in calories, contains water which help you keep hydrated, does not contain massive amounts of trans fats, or salt. I can go on and on… I personally think is tasty as well.

3. Dried mixed nuts (Kiss)

Mixed nuts for snackAnother healthy snack for weight loss, which can be nutrient rich, is easy and can make you feel full. However, dried nuts can be rich in fat and calories, so do eat them in moderation. For example 187g of mixed nuts can contain 800kcal, which could be half of your daily calorie needs and can contain 70g of fat, so aim for just a handful. In addition, many of the mixed nuts sold in shops may be roasted in vegetable oils, which can increase trans-fat content, or contain large amounts of salt. Read the label and try to aim for the dry roasted, without added salt or uncooked.

Nutritional values, as well as calorie content will depend on the type of nuts you choose and how they have been prepared. The below table includes an example of some of the nutritional information for dry roasted mixed nuts with no added salt.

Nutrition data for dry roasted mixed nuts, no added salt. (187g serving)
Calories 814kcal
Total Fat 70g Of which saturated 9g
Total carbohydrate 35g
Fiber 12g
Protein 24 g
Folate 68.5mcg
Calcium 95.9mg
Iron 5.1mg
Magnesium 308mg
Zinc 5.2mg
Phosphorus 596mg
Potassium 818mg
Sodium 16.4mg

Nutrient data taken from out diet and exercise planner

4. Fruit (Kiss)

Healthy weight loss snackYou must have heard from just about everywhere how important it is to eat loads of fruit and veg. so it may come as a surprise that I actually say in moderation instead of eat ample. Fruit are packed with nutrients such as vitamins, antioxidants and minerals and undoubtedly there should be part of a healthy balanced diet. My 'in moderation' does not mean now and then and if you can have a fruit a day please do.

The only issue with fruits is that they can contain quite a lot of sugars. Sugar content as well as nutrient content will depend on the kind of fruit. Do include them in your daily diet having a large variety, and do have them as a snack, however, do not base your diet in large amount of fruit as you may find yourself consuming quite a lot of sugar.

Moreover, be aware that just because a food item contains a fruit is not always a healthy option. For example an apple pie is not a fruit or a healthy weight loss snack.

Why Not…Have a bowl of fruit salad. Try avoiding adding sugar or fruit juice from a carton or bottle. Use the juices of the fruit or squeeze an orange. You can sprinkle a few seeds and/or dried nuts (remember in moderation).

 Why Not…Freeze fruit and use them to blend them into a refreshing smoothie or to replace an ice cream craving. 

5. Olives (Marry)

OlivesI must say that olives are my favourite and I can eat the whole big jar in one sitting. If you do eat them to that extend they can add up to a lot of calories but if you just have them as a snack or to complement a salad then they are great. Olives is a main element of a Mediterranean type of diet and they are in general low in carbohydrate content and a source of monosaturated fats. Olives also contain a variety of different nutrients and they do come in a large variety of sizes, and kinds which means you have different tastes to choose from.

Why Not…enhance the taste of olives and make them more interesting. Keep them in a jar with olive oil and add garlic and herbs, or vinegar or even chilli (allow a couple of days the different tastes to blend).    

6. Cheese (Kiss)

CheeseAgain with cheese you have loads of variety and tastes so you can find what rocks your taste buds. It can be high in saturated fats and calories depending on the type of cheese. As a general rule white cheeses tend to be lower in fat. That does not mean that you cannot enjoy the rest just keep it in moderation. In addition, be aware that some blue cheeses may have a strong smell and may not be the best snack choice in a working environment.

In general, be aware of the fat content and how much cheese you consume. You can combine cheese with some rye crackers or olives or a piece of ham and it will make a good healthy and easy snack.

7. Yogurt (Kiss)

Yogurt with fruitsSimilarly to cheese be aware that it can be high in saturated fat content but can get the low fat versions. Go for natural yogurts and try to avoid the fruity or the ones which come in different tastes (i.e. toffee, vanilla etc) as in general they tend to have preservatives and sugars and do try adding loads of sugar in it or different fruit sauces, marmalade and so on.

Yogurt can be an easy and versatile healthy snack solution.

Why Not…Make your own fruit yogurt by adding fresh fruit.

Why Not… freeze mixed yogurt with fruit and have it instead of a sweet snack or on a hot summer's day. 

8. Fizzy zero (Kiss)

Fizzy drinksBy fizzy zero I mean all the fizzy drinks which have zero sugar. You may not necessarily want something to eat but do want something to taste. Moreover, thirst can sometimes be mistaken with hunger and is good to have a drink first before attacking the snacks. Ideally is best to have water but I totally understand that some people like to have a tastier drink. If you are a fan of fizzy drinks the ones in the zero or diet category usually contain miniscule amount of calories.

Do not go overboard with them as they do contain sweeteners and there has been quite a lot of controversy regarding their safety in terms of health. But do keep well hydrated through the day and don't wait until you are thirsty to have a drink. My first recommendation again will be water and do keep fizzy drinks at bay.

9. Freshly squeezed juice (Marry)

Fresh juicesI had a friend who used to substitute her breakfast and snacks with a freshly squeezed juice. I wouldn't recommend going as far as that but you can definitely use it as a snack. As mentioned above is important to keep hydrated and thirst can be mistaken with hunger.

Try to avoid pre-packed juices as they are high in sugars and preservatives and quite honest fruit have lost most of their nutrients by the time it reached your glass.

Try mix mixing fruit and veg. together for less sugar content instead of just fruit. You can get a juicing book or even just search through the internet and you'll see there is a plethora of different recipes.

10. Rye crackers (Kiss)

Rye CrackersI call rye crackers my saviours and they are a sort of a lifeline for me. I always carry a few in my bag and I snack on them through the day. I spend most of my working day in my car and don't always have time for lunch so rye crackers are there for all day snacking, stomach settling, boredom munching and so on.

However, they can contain a lot of carbohydrates although it is less than a slice of bread and they tend to have low GL (glycemic index). You can combine them with a piece of cheese or ham or olives for a nice easy snack but try not to consume them in large amounts.

11. Eggs (Marry)

Hard boiled eggsEggs are not something which is often seen as a snack but more like a meal. Eggs are high in protein and can keep you full for longer. They are fussier to prepare and is not the sort of snack you just pick and go. However, you know you are likely to have a snack in work or through the day you can get them ready in the morning and take them with you. Hard boiled eggs can be a fast and filling snack.

Why Not…Have an 'eggy'. This is my favourite egg snack and my grandmother used to make for me when I was a child. Part boil (leave the yolk runny)2 eggs. Rough cut them in a bowl and mix with a piece of toast or 2 rye crackers. Add salt & pepper to taste and 1tsp of olive oil. Mix it all up.

It doesn't look as good but it tastes divine. Be aware it can be high in calories. 

12. Ham (Kiss)

HamA packet of ham can provide an easy and quick high protein snack. Different types can be processed and high in fat. Try to opt for fresher types, lean and maybe roasted or boiled. In general if it comes out of a tin tends to be processed, with added sugars and preservatives. Use ham in moderation.


13. Bread free sandwich (for desperate times)

Chicken saladThis is actually a trick I tend to do when I am desperate for something to eat. There are many of times where I find myself in the middle of a village with just a convenient store in site and I need to get a snack which I can eat while driving. If my only option is a sandwich I tend to get something which is easy to eat, like chicken salad, chicken and bacon, I remove the bread and eat only the filling.

Is not the best snack option and pre-packed sandwiches from shops may contain sauces such as mayonnaise, sugars, salt etc. Not the healthiest of all, and not the most economical, but this is a desperate solution. If you can't find anything else and you are desperate try that trick and you will be improving the carbohydrate and calorie profile of a sandwich.

The above 13 healthy snack ideas for weight loss are only a suggestion and you are always advised to consult a medical professional before making dietary changes if you have any health issues or concerns.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Weight Loss Help and Tips

Weight Loss Help and Tips

5 Best weight loss programs for women

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 06:23 AM PDT

Wondering which are the best weight loss programs for women? Which diets or weight loss solutions can generate the best, the healthiest, the safest and the faster results?  The majority of our readers are women and very often we get comments asking the same questions. For the last couple of weeks we started a research project to find out which are the top 5 ways for women to lose weight. There are a plethora of weight loss programs, diets, supplements and weight loss pills circulating the market and we have selected the top 5 that meet our criteria (see below) and that are best suited for women. We have many times provided weight loss tips for women to help them lose weight without engaging into any weight loss program but in this post we are going to examine in detail the weight loss programs that are worth considering.

Our Criteria for choosing the best weight loss program for women

To compile our criteria for choosing the best program we have considered the following:

The dietary guidelines for Americans – The US government department of health published in 2010 the dietary guidelines for Americans. The guide provides advice on the different aspects of weight loss including diet, recommended calorie intake and exercise. The weight loss programs selected below adhere to these standards.

Healthy and safe weight loss: We have said many times that our goal is to help you lose weight in a healthy and safe way. We do not like crash diets, fad diets, suspicious products or anything that does not promote healthy and permanent weight loss.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:  Many weight loss solutions can generate results but not for the average women. They can work for celebrities or fit women but not for women of all ages and body type. Our goal was to present you with programs that you can follow and above all programs that will generate the results YOU want. Both men and women have weight problems but in general women are more anxious to lose weight. We wanted the programs to be 'women friendly' and take into account the different life stages that a woman has to undergo in her life (period, wedding, pregnancy, and menopause).

Recommended calorie intake for women

Before getting into the details of each weight loss program is it worth noting the recommended calorie intake for women as well as the distribution between the 3 main food groups. The recommendations are provided by the dietary guidelines for Americans.

Daily calorie intake

Women between the ages of 21-25: 2,000 calories

Women between the ages of 26-50: 1,800 calories

Women over 50: 1,600 calories

Food group distribution

Fat: 20%-35%

Carbohydrates: 45%-65%

Protein: 10%-35%

5 Top weight loss programs for women

In order of importance, these are the top 5 weight loss programs for women that in our opinion are worth considering.

1. Mediterranean diet

mediterranean dietThe Mediterranean diet is not just another commercial diet but it is a lifestyle that promotes healthy eating and healthy living. It is a natural weight loss program that was nominated by UNESCO as the world's healthiest diet. The Mediterranean diet is a mixture of the cultures and dietary preferences of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean basin and hence this is from where it got its name.

Adherence of the Mediterranean diet to the dietary guidelines for Americans

The Mediterranean diet is a balanced diet and it is in accordance with the dietary guidelines. In fact most of the guidelines suggested are based on Mediterranean diet principles and the majority of the recommended foods are taken from the Mediterranean diet food pyramid. The endorsed distribution of fat, protein and carbohydrates for a healthy diet is:

Fat: 20 -35 %

Protein: 10- 35 %

Carbohydrates: 50 %

The Mediterranean diet adheres perfectly to these standards and the food components that make up med diet make it a heart friendly diet.

Healthy and safe

The Mediterranean diet is above all a healthy and safe diet. It is a statistical fact that people who live in the Mediterranean basin (Greeks, Italians etc.) live longer and have less incidents of cancer and cardiovascular diseases than Americans. It is not a restrictive diet and can be safely followed by men and women of all ages.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:

The vast selection of food choices available in med diet makes it a perfect choice for women. Med diet gives more emphasis to fruits and vegetables, olive oil, legumes, fish, whole grains and less emphasis to red meat, processed food and other fatty and non- natural products. Since our goal is weight loss we should take into account that to lose weight you need to consume fewer calories than what you need. The Mediterranean diet does a good job in this aspect as well since the average calories in each meal are around 1500 (of course this depends on the foods selected but as a rule of thumb the average is around this number) . The recommended daily intake for women between 20-25 years is 2000 calories, for women between 26-50 years is 1800 calories and for women over 50 is 1600 calories. So, a daily intake of around 1500 calories will create a calorie deficit that will gradually lead to weight loss in a natural way.

2. 17 day diet

17 day dietUnlike the Mediterranean diet, the 17 day diet is not a natural diet but a commercial diet. This means that the sole purpose of the 17 day diet is to help you lose weight. It is not a lifestyle but it has a beginning and an end.  This weight loss program consists of 4 phases, with each phase lasting 17 days.

The main concept behind this program is calorie cycling. Dr Moreno, the diet author, suggests that with calorie cycling you aid your metabolism and keep away boredom while dieting.

In brief the different phases of the 17 day diet program are:

Phase 1 – "The accelerate cycle": At the first stage you are allowed to consume protein type foods in unlimited quantities and small amounts of fat provided that you daily calorie intake is around 1200 calories. This is the stage where you will experience fast weight loss.

Phase 2 – "The activate cycle": You decrease the amount of fat and increase the amount of carbs. Typical calorie intake is 1500 calories per day.

Phase 3- "The achieve cycle": You are allowed to eat almost any type of food but in moderation

Phase 4-"The arrive cycle": This is the maintenance part where you are supposed to watch your weight and follow phases 1-3 when in problem.

Adherence of the 17 day diet to the dietary guidelines for Americans

The 17 diet is not a bad diet. Phases 1 and 2 are not according to standards but phase 3 is a rather balanced phase. We have selected this diet to be part of our best weight loss programs for women because many women want fast results in a short period of time and phases 1 and 2 can give you the results you want in 34 days. The tricky part is to keep the weight off when you are entering phases 3 and 4 and this is where you need discipline.

The 1200 calorie diet plan introduced in phase 1 is the minimum you can go and since it is only for 2 weeks there are no serious implications. We have also presented our 1200 calorie diet for women in the past.

Healthy and safe

Although going as low as 1200 calories per day may not be suitable for some people we believe that for the average woman it should not create any problems (provided of course that you are not pregnant or suffering from any disease or disorder). Phases 2 and 3 are according to safety guidelines and the overall instructions provided in the 17 day diet book do not engage any health risks. The calorie cycling is indeed a way to kick start your metabolism and since each phase is only 17 days it does not create any other side effects.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:

You can get results by following this program provided that you do it correctly and by the book. What many women like about this diet is the fact that is has a clear start and end points. You know from advance that you will enter a diet for 68 days. After that period you evaluate your results and decide the way forward. We did research into various forums and read the experiences of people who followed this diet and most of them did manage to lose weight and most importantly they manage to keep the weight off. Those that failed to do so did not follow the complete set of instructions but they tried a hybrid diet which at the end made them fail.

3. Dukan Diet

dukan dietWe first came across the Dukan Diet right after the media around the world 'announced' that this was the diet followed by Kate Middleton before the Royal wedding. This world's interest drove our curiosity to find out more about the Dukan diet and we decided to include it as one of the top 5 weight loss programs for women.

The Dukan diet is a 'phase diet' similar to Atkins and 17 day diet but it's main idea is to take care of what you eat rather than the quantity of the food you eat.  For this purpose the diet has a long list of foods you are allowed to consume at each stage. It is not an open diet where you choose what to eat (provided that you are within a certain calorie range) but it is a 'closed diet' in the sense that you are given a list of the foods to eat. In brief the 4 stages of the Dukan Diet are:

Preparation Phase – get ready by eating only protein type foods.

Weight Loss Phase – eat protein and fiber and lose weight.

Protective Phase – start eating foods from carbs, fats and protein and watch your weight

Maintenance phase – Eat healthy foods from all food groups.

The 2nd phase does not have a specific timeframe but it all depends on the amount of weight you want to lose.

Adherence of the Dukan diet to the dietary guidelines for Americans

As with the 17 day diet the first 2 phases of the Dukan Diet do not fully comply with the suggested standards because they restrict certain food items from your daily diet and promote low calorie meals which are sometimes below the average. The 3rd and 4th stage though is according to standards and best practices. The list of healthy foods suggested by the Dukan Diet has the same characteristics as the foods suggested in the dietary guidelines.

Healthy and safe

It can become unhealthy if you over do it. Restricting food groups from your diet for a long time is not healthy or recommended. If on the other hand you follow phase 1 and 2 for a reasonable amount of time (a couple of weeks) then you minimize the possible dangers.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:

The Dukan Diet worked for Kate Middleton and many other celebrities and it can work for you as well. It needs some preparation work to ensure that you have in stock the foods items you are allowed to eat but if you are really determined to lose weight using the Dukan diet then certainly you can do it.

4. Slim-fast weight loss program

weight loss programThe slim-fast diet is something like an 'out of the box' weight loss solution in the sense that it comes with ready made products (snack bars, shakes, meal bars) that can be used to replace 2 of your main meals (breakfast-lunch) and snacks. This gives you the opportunity to consume up to 500 calories in a meal of your choice for dinner. It is based on a 1200 calorie diet and is best suited for people who need to lose more than 20 pounds.

Adherence of the slim-fast diet to the dietary guidelines for Americans

Since most of the meals and snacks are ready made products by slim-fast, they ensured that the daily intake of fats, protein and carbs is in accordance to the dietary guidelines. In numbers the distribution of fats, protein and carbs from slim-fast products is 20%, 30%, 50%. Their products also provide satisfactory doses of minerals and vitamins.

Healthy and safe

It is a healthy and safe diet to follow. Their products are not considered as supplements but as balanced food items which are both healthy and safe to consume. There are also associated with positive effects on insulin and blood sugar levels.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:

If you follow the slim-fast program by the book it will work. There is no way out since the major meals are composed of slim-fast products that guarantee the amount of calories you consume. Now, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this approach. First it is costly because you will have to order all those slim-fast products and second there is a chance that you will get bored quickly and quit. On the other hand it is a perfect solution for the working woman who does not have the time to cook or organize her meals in advance. If you want a quick solution that is healthy and can generate good results then the slim-fast solution is for you.

5. DASH Diet

dash dietLast but certainly not least we have the DASH Diet. The DASH diet is a balanced diet similar to the Mediterranean diet. It is the result of research carried out in 4 medical centers and sponsored by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The main purpose of this diet is to help you lower your high blood pressure through healthy eating practices and lifestyle changes. By eating healthy food and following an active lifestyle you also promote weight loss. It is a diet that can be really helpful especially for women over 40 and 50. The basic principle of the DASH diet for losing weight is the following:  first you need to calculate how many calories you need per day and then you must adjust the calories you consume and the calories you burn so that you constantly create a calorie deficit or ensure that you are not creating a calorie surplus. In other words you need to consume fewer calories than what you burn.

Adherence of the DASH diet to the dietary guidelines for Americans

The DASH diet adheres perfectly to the dietary guidelines.  It is a balanced diet which gives more emphasis on fruits and vegetables and less to fats (saturated), sugars and salt. It is a heart-friendly diet which is proven to lower blood sugar levels and bad cholesterol.

Healthy and safe

Together with the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet is probably among the safest and healthiest diets in the World. People suffering from heart related diseases or hypertension are 'forced' to follow the DASH diet for health and weight loss.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:

We already mentioned above that this diet is perfect for women over 40 and it is a very good choice for women of all ages. It is not very difficult to follow as it does not restrict any food groups from your daily meals. All it takes it to be selective on what you eat and in what quantities. You do not need any special preparations on food other than remembering to minimize the consumption of red meat, fats, sugars and salt.


At the time of publishing this post, these are the 5 weight loss programs we believe are more suited to women. For sure there are many other diets and programs that are suitable for women but based on our experience, research and criteria these can produce immediate results. You can also read a previous post on the most popular weight loss diets to get a better view on what is available in the market. What is important is to select a program or diet and stick to it for a number of weeks and then evaluate the results and consider if the particular program can work for you or not. Do not let the fancy marketing advertisements of weight loss products take you over but base your decision on healthy standards and practices.