To Snack or Not to Snack?
Snacking is a fact of life in our culture. Snacking can help us get important nutrients throughout the day. When choosing healthy snacks it is important to think about balance, variety and moderation. Fueling our body and brain throughout the day keeps us strong and alert. Instead of cutting out snacking why not make some simple swaps that our body will thank us for?
In my role as a health educator, I was fortunate to talk with experts in the field of nutrition. One registered dietitian gave the following advice on choosing healthful snacks. He suggested limiting the “five ‘C’ foods” when it came to snacking: cookies, candy, cake, crackers and chips. That made a lot of sense to me as many of those snacks are highly processed; full of sugar, trans-fats, saturated fat and sodium. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy some of those snacks occasionally but I find myself making some simple swaps more regularly.
When you find yourself craving something sweet, instead of reaching for the cookies, candy or cake, try fresh fruit such as grapes, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple or apples. They can be eaten alone or dipped in a low-fat yogurt (remember to check the yogurt label to ensure you have selected a brand that is low in sugar). Kids can have fun making fruit kabobs. Also, make your own smoothie with fresh fruit for a change of pace. If bananas are getting too ripe to eat, peel and freeze them for later use in a fruit smoothie. For other sweet simple swaps, there are many varieties of yogurt bars and fruit juice popsicles in the freezer section at the grocery store.
If it is something crunchy and salty you are craving, how about some of these options instead of the chips and crackers? Crunchy vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, snow peas and celery dipped in hummus, bean dip, salsa or peanut butter. Try some black bean chips with salsa. A dill pickle spear can help with that crunchy, salty craving. A handful of nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc. can make a nutritious snack. Dry roasted edamame might be something new to try. Kids can have fun making their own English muffin pizzas with a variety of vegetable toppings like peppers and mushrooms. Peanut butter and rice cakes can be a quick snack. If you want a zip to your popcorn, try three cups of popcorn with 2 Tbsp. of grated parmesan cheese, a little chili powder and pinch of cayenne pepper.
When choosing snacks ask yourself, “does this snack have some nutrients that will fuel my body to keep me strong and alert?” The choices are limitless. Have fun coming up with new and creative snacks that your entire family can enjoy. So the answer to the question, “To snack or not to snack?” is a resounding yes to snacking. Make some simple swaps away from the “C” foods. Your body will love you for it.
Vicki Hayes, Fort Healthy representative and community member