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Use Snacktime As Nutritional Opportunity

PopcornPotato chips. Chocolate chip cookies. Candy.

When you need a snack, do you reach for something you want to eat or something your body needs?

Snacking doesn’t necessary have to be unhealthy, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In fact, it’s an opportunity to make sure your body is getting adequate nutrition.

“If you choose carefully, and plan ahead, sensible snacks can be part of any healthful eating plan,” said Isabel Maples, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products make excellent choices for snacks.

“Snacks can prevent overeating at mealtimes and throughout the day,” said Maples, who is also a registered dietitian nutritionist. For children and adults alike, snacks can supply foods and nutrients that we might miss in meals.”

Snacks benefit people in different ways depending on their age.

For active kids and teens, snacks can supplement their meals because they’re still growing.

“For adults, a healthy snack can provide an energy boost, and satisfy your mid-day hunger,” Maples said. “If you haven’t eaten for three or more hours, a snack can help bring up your blood sugar level for optimal energy. For older adults with smaller appetites or limited energy, several small meals including snacks may be easier for their bodies to handle.:

To eat more healthy snacks, try these tips from Maples:

  • Plan your snacks. “Keep a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich, ready-to-eat foods nearby, for when you need a bite to take the edge off hunger. Then, you won’t be so tempted by less-healthy options from vending machines, convenience stores or the contents of your own kitchen.” Snack ideas include fresh fruit, air-popped popcorn, whole-wheat crackers, dried fruit and nut mixes, almonds and fat-free yogurt.
  • Make snack calories count. “Snack on foods that fill the nutrient gaps in your day’s eating plan. Think of snacks as mini-meals to help you eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy – foods we often don’t eat enough.”
  • Go easy on high-calorie snacks such as chips, candy and soft drinks. “They often contain solid fats, and added sugars. Make these occasional choices that fit your day’s plan.”
  • Snack when you’re hungry – not because you’re bored, stressed or frustrated. “Exercise can actually be a great way to feed those emotional urges.”
  • Snack on sensible portions. “Choose single-serve containers, or put a small helping in a bowl rather than eating directly from the package.”
  • Quench your thirst. “Water, low-fat or fat-free milk and 100 percent juice are just a few options. Flavored waters might be high in added sugars, so check the label.”

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

+ Learn how to choose healthier foods for better nutrition and weight loss through the Nutritional Analysis program at Bon Secours In Motion.

+ Do you need help losing weight? Learn from Registered Dietitians and athletic trainers how eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can safely shed unwanted pounds.