Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Need Some Good and Healthy Snack Ideas.

Hi Laurie,
Now that it's back to school for the kids (and back to work for lots of us, too) I find myself getting frustrated trying to plan healthy snacks for the whole family. I like to keep some in my desk at work, send my husband to his job with something healthy to tide him over, and have things at home for the kids (10, 12 and 15) that are at least somewhat good for us and not too many calories.
I know fruit is a good idea, but that does get boring after a while. And it seems like fruit or 100-calorie snack bags are not enough to last until dinner at 6:30 pm lots of times.
Are there any snacks that are good for you and filling?
Thanks, Brenda R.

Hi Brenda,
Snacks are definitely a fact of life! While snacking too frequently or on foods too high in fat and calories is not helpful, many people depend on snacks to supplement calories, protein and nutrients in their diet that they might not get during their three daily meals. What the best snack is for you and your family members depends largely on what else they eat during the day, as well as how active they are.

For active young people, snacks can supply necessary nutrients for growth and activities.

For the person who has a physically demanding job (or workout) snacks can (and should) be higher in calories.
And for the sedentary worker or dieter trying to lose weight, snacks can provide fiber, vitamins and minerals in few calories, while tiding you over until the next meal.

Here are some considerations to guide better choices for each individual:

1) Do you want a high-calorie (more than 200) or low-calorie (less than 200) choice? For high-calorie choices think more along the line of a mini-meal than a fattening treat: A peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk, for example, provides as many calories as a cinnamon roll, but with a lot more nutrition. Think about protein foods to get more calories at the same time as more nutrition: cheese and crackers, deviled eggs, nuts, even prepared items--like protein bars or Carnation Instant Breakfast--can help meet daily protein needs and tide you over until dinner time. Low-calorie snacks can still supply protein, but think lower fat and carb: a turkey wrap, cottage cheese and fruit, or a granola bar can be filling snacks without additional empty calories.

2) Do you want to eat it fast or take your time nibbling? If your purpose is to get some nutrition in before heading to the gym, you don't want to fill up or eat a very high-fiber snack. Some of the protein bars are ideal for this purpose. If you are fighting boredom, eating at your desk (which is basically not a good idea!), and trying not to consume too many calories, consider a snack of carrot sticks or celery for plenty of munching: Add hummus or salsa--both low in calories--for texture and flavor. A cup of dry cereal can also satisfy the munchies without too many calories and often with a healthy dose of vitamins. Don't forget about beverages! Sometimes we think we crave food when we are actually experiencing thirst. If you worry about diet soda or other artificially sweetened beverages, find alternative ways to flavor water, like with a splash of fruit juice or a flavored tea bag. Skip the regular soda and sweetened tea at all costs--they are purely empty calories!

3) What nutrients are you missing during the rest of your day? Snacks can be a good time to get in a serving of calcium, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Think low-fat yogurt, a high-fiber cereal with fat-free milk, fresh fruits and veggies, low-fat cheeses (like babybel) or nuts. 

4) Do you have room for 'treats' in your diet? Guidelines suggest no more than 10% of your calories should come from "treat" foods. This means 200 calories of "junk food" are alloted for a 2000 calorie diet, which is one serving a day, tops! Cookies and chips are alright some of the time, but use common sense for these extras: Keep calories low with low-fat muffins, baked chips, and pre-portioned servings (either 100-calorie snack bags, or snacks you portion out at home ahead of time to prevent over-indulging). If you're planning on a glass of wine or dessert after dinner, go with something nutrient-dense and low-calorie in the afternoon. You'll be glad you did the next time you step on the scale!

For a lot more information about snacks, including a list of 50 ideas, view the "smart snacking" ebook (in the Choose to Lose section) on my products page. Choose any other product and get the Smart Snack e book for free through September 30, 2012!

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