10 Tips for Healthy Snacking
Maybe you’re bored, or stressed, or need a mood picker-upper, or just hungry between meals, or too busy to eat regular meals. These are some of the reasons why people snack. Once considered to be a special between-meal treat, snacking is now the norm, occurring anytime, anywhere. Today, nearly all Americans snack daily and as many as 50% say they snack two or three times a day.
Not only are more people snacking more often, but also the types of foods people prefer to snack on are changing. Today, snacks are more than salty chips, candy bars, cookies, sodas, and other high calorie, low nutrient foods and beverages. According to a recent Nielsen survey, 64% of Americans are seeking healthier foods, including snack foods such as yogurt, the second most popular snack purchased by parents with school-age children. To meet this growing demand for healthy snacks, the food industry is introducing a wide variety of snack foods with better-for-you attributes.
With snacking now the new normal, it’s important to ensure that foods and beverages consumed as snacks contribute to, not jeopardize, your health. The following are 10 tips to help you snack smart.
Snack mindfully, not mindlessly. This means being aware of what and why you’re eating. Plowing through a bag of chips in front of the TV is an example of mindless eating, whereas listening to your body’s hunger cues and if truly hungry choosing nutritious snacks such as string cheese, fruit, or low fat popcorn is an example of mindful snacking.
Plan ahead. Stock up on grab-and-go snacks such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, yogurt, and milk, or ingredients to make your own nutritious snacks.
Think convenience. Keep foods such as fruit, sliced vegetables, milk, yogurt, individually-wrapped string cheese, whole grain crackers, and other healthy foods on hand to easily grab.
Choose snacks that boost your nutrient intake, especially shortfall nutrients. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identifies calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and fiber as nutrients of public health concern because of their low intake. Do you know that milk provides three of these nutrients (i.e., calcium, vitamin D, and potassium)?
Select protein-rich foods such as milk, part-skim mozzarella cheese sticks, fat-free or low-fat yogurt or yogurt drinks, nuts, hard boiled eggs, and lean meats as snacks. Emerging research suggests that increasing protein intake contributes to a feeling of fullness, which could help prevent overeating.
Read the Nutrition Facts label on foods and beverages to help choose healthy snacks.
Pay attention to portion sizes and avoid oversized portions of snacks. Measure out a proper serving instead of munching straight from the bag, keep snack-size bags on hand to use when making your own snacks, and/or buy pre-prepared, single-serve snack packages such as cheese products packed with baby carrots or apples or pretzels.
Make healthy snacking a family affair by involving all members. Kids can learn about healthy eating by participating in choosing and preparing snacks. For example, young children can mix plain yogurt with fresh fruit for a healthy snack.
Set a good example. Parents and other care providers can influence children’s snack intake by consuming healthy snacks themselves.
Choose an occasional indulgent snack wisely. Enjoy a small treat but keep within your daily calorie limit.
For more information about snacking, read the new Health and Wellness newsletter.