I’m a big fan of diet and exercise programs such as 5 Factor Fitness and Body for Life. With summer upon us I have set myself a goal to lose 10 pounds over the next three months. With my current job, I sit behind a desk a lot more than I used to and I need to fire up a dedicated program to overcome the slow weight gain this has brought on.
I’ve decided to use the exercise and weight training framework of Body for Life along with some healthy and easy to create food choices. The exercise program is pretty straight forward with aerobic exercise three days a week along with three days of weight training.
The food part is designed around 1700 calories a day divided into 6 smaller meals. This is where the tuning part comes in. Most diets are based around three substantial meals, which has the effect of spiking blood sugar right after a meal and then dropping off. This leads to the dreaded late morning and after lunch slumps.
To overcome this it’s best to have 3 smaller meals each followed a few hours later by a nutritional snack. This will keep blood sugar levels more constant and help keep you at your peak all day. Over the last couple of years I’ve experimented with many different meals and snacks and have found a trio that works really well for me.
All three are easy to make and are completely portable so I can take them with me on the run. I can custom “tune” them to adjust fiber, protein, and calorie levels. I can also add a variety of ingredients to change flavors and add the needed variety to make them palatable week after week.
Here is the Tunable Trio…
1. Power Shakes. These are great for breakfast and they are portable enough to take with you anywhere. You can make one in under three minutes with just a blender and a few readily available ingredients. These are easily “tunable” with the addition of protein powder or psyllium fiber. A great resource for Smoothie recipes is the book, The Abs Diet by David Zinczenko from Men’s Health Magazine.
Here is one of my favorites from David’s book….
1 Cup 1% Milk
2 Tablespoons low fat vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup instant oatmeal (cooked in water)
2 teaspoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons chocolate whey protein powder
6 ice cubes
Optional: 1 tablespoon psyllium powder for insoluble fiber
Mix ingredients in a blender until smooth. Makes 2 eight ounce servings.
I love this recipe and it can be easily modified by adding a banana, cinnamon, or substituting vanilla protein powder. The basic recipe comes in at 220 calories with 12 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. I usually add some psyllium for added fiber and find it really fills me up and gives me lasting energy. It’s quick to make, tastes delicious, and I can make two meals from one recipe. I usually share this with my wife for a quick on-the-go meal in the morning.
2. Convenient Muffins. Muffins have gotten a bad rap with the fat laden behemoths that you find at Costco or your local convenience store. Most have 30-40 grams of fat and come in at 600-800 calories apiece. This type of muffin is a total diet killer. With some simple modifications you can create muffins that are healthy, tasty, and will stick with you with good amounts of protein and fiber.
The key ingredient to great muffins is Oat Bran. It has a mildly pleasant taste and you can make them sweet with the addition of brown sugar or honey. The great thing about this basic oat bran muffin is that it is easy to add ingredients to completely change the flavor. You can add your favorite fruit to easily make banana, peach, or blueberry muffins.
With the addition of protein powder, yogurt, or psyllium fiber you can “tune” your muffins to make them healthier and not spike your blood sugar. These ingredients add satiety to the muffins and you’ll find they will stick with you longer and not give you the usual blood-sugar dip of so many high carbohydrate snacks.
Here is a basic recipe that is easy to modify.
2 cups oat bran cereal, uncooked
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 carton (8 oz) plain low fat yogurt
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup blueberries
Option 1: One scoop vanilla protein powder
Option 2: Two tablespoons psyllium powder
Substitutions: Substitute a banana or peaches for the blueberries
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line 12 medium muffin cups with paper baking cups. Combine oat bran, brown sugar and baking powder. Add combined yogurt, egg whites, skim milk, honey, and oil, mixing just until moistened. Fold in blueberries or other fruit. Fill muffin cups almost full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.
I’ve used this recipe with a variety of different fruit substitutions. The basic muffin recipe comes in at about 130 calories apiece, so they make a great snack that is easy to take with you. I usually add the protein powder and psyllium and I find they will keep me going all morning.
3. English Muffin Sandwich: The basic English muffin is a great vehicle for sandwich creation. You can add a variety of things to make great tasting, low calorie meals that are easy to take with you. Thomas’s English Muffins now offer a 100 calorie variety that is just perfect for tuning your diet. It has additional fiber and is low fat.
You can add low fat turkey, chicken, or beef lunch meat for an under 200 calorie meal. With the addition of low fat cheese and tomato slices you can create a fast deluxe sandwich in just minutes. For breakfast I like to cook up some Morningstar veggie sausage patties and make a low fat sausage muffin. I can have two of these for under 400 calories and be filled up all morning.
For additional food items, check out Devin Alexander’s Fast Food Fix. She has taken many of our common fast foods and modified them to be healthier and quick to make from home. She has a popular cooking show on the Discover channel where she will show you how easy it is to cook your favorite foods at home.
If you like the smoothies and are looking for more recipies, be sure to pick up the Abs Diet 6 Minute Meals book. This has all sorts of great tunable recipes to fix almost any diet plan.
When you are out shopping be sure to pick up some protein powder, oat bran, and some psyllium powder. These three ingredients allow you to add protein, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber to almost any meal.
If you are looking for healthy alternatives to fast food and the usual over processed packaged foods why not give the tunable trio a try. You’ll save calories and have some delicious meals you can take with you on the go. Enjoy!
For an overview on Tuning Your Life see our previous post.
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