Make snacks count by choosing nutrient-rich foods

Tribune Content AgencyAugust 24, 2013 

Do you remember when between meal snacking – the “spoiler” of meal appetites – was frowned upon?

Those days are long gone, as snacking is widely viewed as a good thing that offers a number of advantages, from helping to avoid hunger during weight loss to promoting stable blood glucose levels.

A survey on snacking behavior by Laura Hershey, a dietitian and health and nutrition manager for Daisy Brand Cottage Cheese, found that people snack for a variety of reasons, including to boost energy levels, replace nutrients after exercise, add protein to the diet, increase intake of healthy foods, satisfy cravings and to replace skipped meals. People are more likely to consume a healthy snack – such as fruits, vegetables, or dairy foods – in the morning and the afternoon than they are in the evenings.

The average number of snacks we consume has doubled over the past 30 years, according to a 2011 USDA report on snacking patterns of adults in the United States. Today, 90 percent of adults report snacking on any given day. And those snacks are contributing a large number of our daily calories – 586 calories for men and 421 calories for women, according to the USDA report. All that snacking can be a good thing, if you are selective in the foods you choose.

“A snack is the perfect time to sneak in good nutrition,” says dietitian Barbara Ruhs, who works for Bashas’ grocery stores. “Pay attention to the calorie, fat and sodium content of snacks. Some snacks that appear small can add up.”

Foods recommended as the healthiest include:

• Whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice or quinoa.

• Fruits, either fresh or unsweetened in cans, frozen or dried.

• Vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, avocados, snow peas, broccoli and tomatoes.

• Nuts and seeds, including walnuts, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.

• Legumes, such as edamame, soy, lentils, beans and peas.

• Lean meats, fish, poultry, canned tuna and shrimp.

• Low-fat dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cottage cheese.

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