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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Are There Healthy Snacks?

Who doesn’t have a craving for snacks between meals?  America is a culture that loves to snack.  In Europe years ago, I was amazed that no one snacked.  Meals were enjoyed tremendously but rarely did people have chips, soda, and the American type of snacks.  So if we want to enjoy our snacks, are there healthier options?

The latest Health and Nutrition Letter from Tufts University has a great article on healthy snacking (Feb. 2013).   They note for most Americans, snacking is our fourth meal of the day.  Snacking can have healthy advantages.  We can keep up our blood sugar from meal to meal; children need snacks because they have small stomachs and eat small amounts at a time.  If we choose healthy options, snacks can help us meet our daily nutrition needs, help us get in our 5 fruits and veggies each day.  So what healthier snacks should we focus on:

Healthy Snack Choices focus on foods from Choose My Plate and foods that are nutrient dense.  This means sugar and fat are not listed as the first ingredients. 

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Low fat dairy

Fruits:  apples, oranges, unsweetened canned fruit, raisins, grapes, unsweetened juices, any fresh fruit.
Vegetables:  carrot and celery sticks, zucchini sticks, radishes, broccoli spears, mixed vegetable juice,  cherry or grape tomatoes
Dairy – low fat yogurt, low-fat cheese, fat-free milk
Grains, Nuts, Seeds:  sunflower seeds, whole grain breads, crackers, almonds, walnuts, other nuts.  

Chips – if you do snack on chips, there are whole grain alternatives.  Choose Lay products like SunChips, Fritos as these are whole grain.  Odd though that Doritos are sometimes whole grain and sometimes not.  Look at the ingredients for whole corn to note if they are whole grain.  Baked potato chips also have less fat than regular chips.  

Popcorn – is whole grain and a healthy choice if it isn’t loaded with fat and salt.  I buy the 100 calorie individual packages and pop them in the microwave for a very healthy, whole grain snack. 
What to Avoid – look at the ingredients and avoid snacks high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, fat.  

(Source:  Is there such a thing as a healthy snack?. (2013, February). Health & Nutrition Letter, 30(12), 4-5.)

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