Choosing Healthy Snacks

Health, Home & Family
on November 24, 2002

Snacking is as American as apple pie, chips and dip, popcorn, and pretzels. We love to snack, and a growing number of the population has the expanding waistline to prove it.

But snacking between meals actually can be good for usif we learn to do it right, according to the American Dietetic Association. Convenience and availability usually outweigh health-consciousness when choosing snacks, so keep nutritious foods conveniently available.

If you stock your pantry with cookies, high-fat crackers, potato chips, and chocolate, youre flirting with temptation. Keep the whole-grain crackers, cereal, canned and dried fruit front and center.

Its what you eat, not when you eat, that counts. Well-chosen snacks provide essential nutrients and keep blood insulin levels stable, contributing to weight management, hunger control, and a steady flow of energy. By filling nutritional gaps in your diet, snacks can serve as an essential nutrient source. And remember, snack to satisfy, not to stuff yourself.

Follow these tips for healthier snacking:

  • Choose low-fat carbohydrates, dairy products, and protein, along with fiber-rich vegetables and whole grains.
  • Limit snacks high in saturated fats, salt, or sugar, or those that lack essential nutrients (check the nutrition label).
  • Make snacks part of your daily food plan rather than extras.
  • Focus on variety, balance, and moderation.
  • Know the difference between hunger and other emotional or physical needs. Is your stomach rumbling like an earthquake or do you simply equate emptiness with hunger?
  • Plan ahead. Stock up on the good stuff and put it where you can see it. Be armed and ready with nutritious, fuss-free snacks when hunger pangs strike. Plan for snacks every three to four hours to keep blood sugar levels steady and curb starving sensations.
  • Dont deprive yourself of your favorite foods; youll only increase cravings. Make some of your favorite snacks part of your daily meal plan. Balance high-fat or high-calorie snacks with low-calorie and low-fat choices at other meals or with other snacks.
  • Snack consciously. Focus on the food (as opposed to the football game or soap opera) so you can monitor what goes into your mouth and avoid overeating.
  • Drink before you eat. Hunger and thirst often are confused. Before you reach in the cookie jar, try a cold glass of water, sugar-free lemonade, iced herbal tea, or sparkling water mixed with fresh fruit juice.
  • Choose snacks that keep your mouth busy. Crunchy and chewy snacks take more effort to eat than a bowl of ice cream.
  • Choose high-fiber snacks that keep you feeling full and help prevent cavities.
  • Limit snacks to low-fat, low-calorie (100-200 calories) foods.