Research shows that snacking is becoming a bigger part of people’s eating habits, with an average of 580 calories consumed as snacks throughout the day. So why not make these dietary interludes count! Read on for some healthy snacking ideas adapted from Janet Hackert, Regional Nutrition and Health Education Specialist for University of Missouri Extension, and learn ways to feel good (not guilty) about snacks.
Change the way you think about snacking. With as much as a quarter of calorie intake coming from non-meal food consumption (also known as snacking), there are ways to make those snacks count toward overall daily nutrient intake. Typically people think of snacks as foods like chips, cookies and other high calorie, high sugar, high fat and high sodium foods. By thinking of snacks as ‘mini-meals’ instead, we can use them to add needed and sometimes hard-to-get nutrients into our eating plans.
Plan ahead to have healthy options handy instead of settling for whatever can be found when hunger strikes. For example, have healthy options like whole grain crackers or popcorn on the table or in the cupboard, or cheese slices or cut up fruit in the fridge at home for when a little something is needed between meals. Create a snack bag for in a purse, vehicle or student’s back pack containing an apple, individual applesauce container, a snack bag of whole grain cereal and/or baby carrots. Likewise, have items at a desk or other workspace that are quick, ready to eat and nutritious.
Watch the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list to determine how good a food is – just because the package says “100 calories,” it may be 100 calories mostly from fat (which would not be a lot of food), or it could be 100 calories that includes some fiber, protein, Vitamin A or other nutrients we needed to be healthy and feel satiated.
Have a variety of tastes and textures to satisfy the range of cravings that come along. For example, when looking for something crunchy, instead of a small bag of chips from the vending machine or convenience store (and their 300 calories, 20 grams of fat and 350 mg of sodium), plan ahead to have a half cup of crisp raw broccoli (and its 22 calories, 0 grams of fat, 20 mg of sodium AND 22% Daily Value of Vitamin A and 97% Daily Value of Vitamin C!). Or choose from a variety of other tasty veggies such as carrots, cauliflower or sweet bell peppers with a tablespoon or two your favorite low-fat dip.
Remember, healthy snacking is about substitution, not addition. Foods higher in calories and lower in nutrient-density are fine for once in a while…for example, when nothing but a small square of dark chocolate will do. But move toward making the healthier choices the more common choices for between meals snacking and enjoy those mini-meal breaks.
Page 2 of 2 - For more information on healthy snacking or other topics, please feel free to contact the Wildcat Extension District, Crawford County, 620-724-8233; Labette County, 620-784-5337; Montgomery County, 620-331-2690; Pittsburg Office, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education (EFNEP), 620-232-1930.