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To Snack Or Not To Snack?

Timeless Nutrition Tips...

Snacking is an everday part of life for most of us. A quick pick-me-up hits the spot mid-morning, mid-afternoon and most often, evenings while relaxing after a long day.

When you need to watch your diet it is true snacking should be limited; however, you needn't give it up entirely. Just snack smart.

Smart Snacking Tips

Vegetables. Keep a supply on hand of your favorite snack vegetables such as baby carrots, celery and even broccoli can be bought in ready-to-eat packaging.

To Snack Or Not To Snack?

Don't like veggies? There are other snacking choices such as light popcorn, whole grain cereal with skim milk, or a piece of your favorite fruit. With fruit the possibilities are endless. Apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, etc. Not only are these healthy, low calorie snacks, all of them are a great source of fiber.

Calcium rich snacks are smart snack choices. Cottage cheese, low or non-fat yogurt which comes in many pleasing flavors, reduced-fat cheeses and the like are excellent choices.

Got the munchies where you need something with a satisfying crunch? Okay, try toasted pita or baked chips. These are also good sources of fiber. Tortilla chips are naturally low in fat and are good dipped in salsa, also low in fat and calories. Fat-free refried beans are available as well as low to non-fat cheeses to use in your favorite bean dip recipes.

Consider snacking as a part of healthy eating rather than a no-no. A smart snack can help you fill in nutrition gaps from meals and help you balance food choices for the day.

Good Snack Indicators

Because Americans are becoming more health conscious, food manufacturers have started creating healthier versions of snack foods that are lower in both sodium and fat.

If you're on a restricted diet, it's not too difficult to find a version of your favorite snack food. Here are some things to look for on the front of the packages:

Good Snack Indicators

  • Fat free - less than a half gram of fat per serving
  • Low fat - three or fewer grams of fat per serving
  • Light - one-third fewer calories or half the fat of the regular
  • Low sodium - 140 or fewer milligrams of sodium per serving
  • Lightly salted - at least 50 percent less sodium than the regular
  • Reduced - at least 25 percent less fat, sodium, or calories than the regular

Whether it's a mid-morning, mid-afternoon or evening, be sure your snack provides protein and, ideally, fiber to keep you satisfied. Try also to keep calories at 150 or less.

Stop Snacking after 7 PM

A study of overweight people found that more than half ate 70 percent of their daily calories after 7 PM - mostly as health-busting foods high in fat, sugar and calories. Try the following tips if you find yourself in this group.

  • Store food out of sight. Clear supper leftovers, empty candy dishes and remove snacks except fruit from countertops.
  • Defeat cravings with an egg timer. Wait five to ten minutes to see if your snack attack simply passes. Work up to 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Brush your teeth. Then you may not care to "dirty them up" again only to have to brush them again.
  • Take a walk. Even if it's just 10 minutes. It's a mood-booster, too and can speed up a little calorie burning that lasts a while.
  • Soak in a relaxing bath. Can soothe stress which can alleviate intense food cravings.
  • Go to bed. If all else fails, an early bedtime takes you out of temptation's way and rewards you with extra sleeping time.

The Upside of Snacking

If you make smart choices, snacking can make significant contributions to the nutritional quality of your diet. The trick is sticking with nutrient-rich basics: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and reduced fat and fat free dairy. If you do, you'll boost your diet's nutrient count even more, for the fewest calories.