When you hear the word "snack" does your mind automatically conjure up images of junk food? For most of us the answer is yes. Chips, cookies, and soda are what we think of. The truth is that snacking can be a very important part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Eating small portions between meals
provides your body with energy to keep you going throughout the day. By making wise snack choices you can increase the amount of fiber and other nutrients you are getting. You can curb feelings of hunger or cravings which prevents overeating. Snacking may also help you better manage portion sizes at meal times.
Try to keep your snack portions small
and less than 250 calories. Proper spacing between meals and snacks can help prevent weight gain. Reading the nutrition label on packaged foods will help you figure the calories and nutrients that are in one portion size. A little bit of education and research can go a long way in your health plan.
Many foods are now being packaged in single portions sizes which make it easier to regulate how much you eat. While these are a step in the right direction, it is still very important to watch what kinds of foods you are snacking on as well as your portions of those foods. Good snacks should provide fiber and nutrients
and not just empty calories. Sugary and fattening sweets like cookies and candy lack these nutrients. Many salty foods - like chips - can dehydrate you. These foods should be eaten in moderation.
For healthy and filling snacks, try:
Fresh or frozen fruit, or a handful of dried fruit, such as raisins
Raw vegetables - carrots, celery, red and green pepper - cut and portioned in small plastic bags. Try filling celery with peanut butter or low-fat cottage cheese, or dipping your vegetables in low-fat dressing.
A whole wheat English muffin with apple butter or pumpkin butter
A slice of angel food cake with non-fat whipped topping
Whole-grain crackers (could be topped with cheese or peanut butter)
Non-fat cottage cheese or yogurt with honey
A handful of nuts, dried fruit or trail-mix (or make your own mix by buying the ingredients you like)
Hummus on whole-wheat pita-bread
A fruit smoothie (blend nonfat milk and/or yogurt with fruit)
There are so many delicious choices so let's redefine the word "snack". Forget the bag of chips and cookies and grab a handful of fruit and nuts. You'll get extra fiber, vitamins, and minerals, with a lot fewer calories. With a little education, proper portions and healthy food choices, snacking can enhance, rather than hurt your diet.
If you have any additional tips that you'd like to add, please post them on the Cook'n Club Forum (if you're a Cook'n Club Member)...or e-mail them to Dan@dvo.com.
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