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Healthy snacking

Published in Weight Management, For the Health of It Author: Diane Giambruno, Registered Dietitian

In 2014, sales for “indulgent” snacks rose 3.1 percent compared to the previous year but healthier snack choices rose by only about 2.5 percent. Marketers can make not-so-healthy snacks sound more appealing by adding descriptions such as “natural,” high fiber or “hormone free.”

What should you be looking for in a snack? By definition, a snack should be a small amount of food eaten between meals. I am part of CentraCare committee working towards improving the nutritional quality of snacks in the system’s vending machines. We define a healthy snack as:

  • Calories: 200 or less
  • Saturated fat: 1.5 grams or less
  • Trans fat: 0 grams and no partially hydrogenated oils
  • Sodium: 200 mg. or less
  • Sugar: 7 grams or less

Snacking has some benefits. Snacking can prevent you from overeating at meals and provide energy for exercise and activity. But snacking should be done mindfully. Each snack should be treated more as a “mini meal,” paying attention to portion size. Try not to multi-task while eating a snack so you remain aware of what and how much you’re eating.

Snack options

  • Try to choose fruits and vegetables as your first option for snacking. Most of us don’t eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day and this can help fulfill that.
  • Nuts are a healthy snack and are filling with small amounts. Watch the sodium content, aiming for lightly salted or unsalted.
  • Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is an excellent snack, providing protein and carbohydrates. Again, be sure to read the label for sugar and fat content.
  • Granola/cereal bars are popular snack choices, but they can be nothing short of a glorified candy bar! Be sure to read the label and keep the guidelines above in mind when choosing a granola bar. KIND bars were recently in the news because they violated the FDA requirement that says a food can make a “healthy” claim only if it has 1 gram or less of saturated fat per serving and gets no more than 15 percent of its calories from saturated fat. There are many varieties of KIND and other bars that do fit this criteria — you just need to read labels.

Eating smaller meals with appropriate healthy snacks between meals can help you avoid overeating at meals and the weight gain that can result. Also, research shows that people that eat smaller meals with healthy snacks between meals are better able to lose weight and maintain weight because of the increase in metabolism that results from frequent small meals.