Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

A lot of people grew up thinking of snacking as a no-no. Snacking was something you did even though you knew better. Some reasons could have been accessibility to food, that you may have been hungry or that others around you were eating. You can grab a snack, enjoy it and let go of the guilt because it’s OK to snack, especially if that snack is nutritious.

Energizing snacks between meals can be important for growing children, active teens, pregnant and nursing women and adults who need added calories.

We all need to know how to choose food that not only tastes good, but that is also good for you. These foods are not hard to find. Plan to use foods that are not processed. Consider fruits, vegetables and fat-free and low-fat dairy. These types of snacks provide nutrients such as protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber that your body needs.

The items you may want to snack on, but shouldn’t are soft drinks, candy, baked goods and all variety of chips. These foods contain calories and often added sugar, fat and salt, but not essential nutrients. Plan to only eat them occasionally.

Plan to lighten up the calories. Many popular snacks are fried and that means added fat and calories. Make time to read the serving size on any packaged snack. Look at the fat and salt content. Remember the larger the portion you eat, the more calories you are consuming. Include the calories consumed from snacks and drinks in your total daily calorie allowance. Beware of exceeding your daily calorie limit.

When we reach for a snack often the food’s characteristics appeal to us more than the food itself. For instance, do you want something smooth or crunchy? How about something hot or chilled? When you know what you want you can consider other options and make better choices instead of relying on unhealthy habits.

When you want something crunchy try apples, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, sweet peppers, pears or radishes. When you just want something to nibble on, enjoy some peanuts, nuts, popcorn, fat free or low-fat cheese or whole grain chips with salsa. Sweet snacks could include fresh baked fruit or canned/frozen fruit with little added sugar. Small portions of baked goods that are made with whole grains and reduced amounts of fat and sugar are another option.

Drink some water before you eat a snack. Sometimes, if you drink water first it will take care of your hunger. Flavored beverage options could include unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, fat free or low-fat milk and smoothies without added sugar. If you’re wanting a hot drink, consider hot tea, coffee without a lot of added fat and sugar, or low-fat hot cocoa.

For a different kind of calorie-free break, try one or more of the following tips. Become more physically active by taking a 15- to 30-minute walk. Plan time to work on a favorite hobby such as woodworking, crafting, painting, sewing, needlework or gardening. Keep a list of fun activities handy and choose one to accomplish.

For example, work on a crossword puzzle, organize your photos in the computer or read. Plan to keep the list posted in a strategic spot, have the necessary materials readily available and refer to it when you get the urge to snack.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is a Purdue Extension educator in Elkhart County. She can be reached at 574-533-0554 or at lienhart@purdue.edu.

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