The Importance of Snacks

According to one study of 31,337 children and adolescents, snacking can contribute up to 600 calories per day, mostly from high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar foods. Three snacks per day are common and more than 27 percent of children’s daily caloric intake is coming from snacks. These snack habits are eroding mealtime where healthier food is generally served. My guess is that adults aren’t too far behind in these statistics.

Snacks can be a healthy part of food intake, but should be eaten only when hungry, not as habit or from boredom.  Here are some healthy snack tips:

  • Choose snacks for variety and select foods from different food groups.
  • Snack only when you are hungry.
  • Eat snack size portions.
  • Plan ahead and bring snacks with you.
  • Read labels for serving sizes and portion control.
  • Drink water.  At least 8 eight-ounce glasses are recommended each day, unless you have kidney problems.
  • When you are snacking be sure you are only eating.  Snacking while studying or watching TV usually means you will eat more than you intended!
  • Plan snacks as a part of the day’s food plan.
  • When shopping, let children help pick out fruits, vegetables and cheeses, they will be more interested in eating them.
  • Set aside a “snack spot” in the refrigerator and cupboard; keep it stocked with nutritious ready-to-eat snacks.  Teach kids to only eat when hungry.
  • Offer snacks at regular times, such as midmorning and mid afternoon. Don’t let children nibble constantly during the day.
  • Avoid high sugar, fatty (the ‘wrong’ kind of fats like potato chips which have been fried in who-know-what kinds of unhealthy fat) and salty snacks, such as candy and soda pop.
  • Snacks are a good way to introduce new foods. Include a game or activity to learn about the new food; let the child help fix it.
  • Never offer food as a reward for good behavior.

Here are a few healthy snacking ideas:

  • Fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables provides a feeling of fullness and only a small amount of calories. They also provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients.
  • Ants on a log — Spread peanut or almond butter on celery sticks and top with raisins.
  • Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are a good source of protein and healthy fats, which helps keep you feeling fuller longer. Nuts and seeds are high in calories, however; so don’t eat them in large quantities. Buy and eat raw nuts and seeds.
  • Pita and hummus — Cut whole-grain pita bread, non-gluten if desired)  into triangles and bake in the oven until crispy. Serve with carrot and celery sticks and dip in hummus. At our non-profit DirectionFive-a culinary and nutrition program for kids-this recipes is a favorite of the kids we teach. Try it!

Hummus

Serves 6

Yield: 2 cups

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans or 1-15 ounce can*

1 lemon, juiced

2 tablespoons tahini

2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Rinse and drain garbanzos and place them in a food processor. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper, tahini, garlic, cumin and cayenne. Turn on the processor and slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream until the mixture is smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. Place in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.

Variation: Sometimes we add a handful of spinach and some fresh parsley to this. It’s delicious and adds more nutrients.

How About a Fruit Salad Contest?

Doesn’t this beautiful photograph of fruit make you want a fruit salad…right now? When it’s a hot day, and you don’t want to heat up the kitchen in the morning, place a lot of fruit on the kitchen counter, and let your kids have at it! Wash the fruit, cut up when necessary, and then the fun part, of making a bowl gorgeous! Perhaps offer a prize for the prettiest? Consider too saving some fruit and later in the day, place in a mason jar and cover with mineral water.

Perfect!

Macronutrients and Mustard Vinaigrette

For this class you can begin by teaching about protein. You could dry toast some nuts to put in the salad for a protein source or grill some chicken or salmon or other fish. Carbohydrates and fats/lipids can be taught while they’re eating their salad.

Macronutrients:

Macro means large and nutrients are needed for your body’s survival. There are three macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Protein

Protein is from the Greek word, ‘proto’ meaning first or of first quality. Protein is an umbrella word for the twenty-two organic amino acids, of which thirteen are non essential to our diet, meaning our body can synthesize them. The other nine are essential amino acids meaning it is essential that we obtain them from our diet.

Proteins build and maintain our body tissues, help produce antibodies, enzymes and hormones such as insulin. Protein is the primary component of muscles, skin, nails, hair and internal organs, especially the heart. Each gram of protein releases four calories or units of heat or energy for the body. Your intake of protein should be approximately 25% of your daily caloric intake.

The average woman needs fifty to sixty grams of protein a day and the average man needs sixty to seventy grams of protein a day. These are very general, as lactating women need additional protein, as just one example. For children the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is based on body weight and included age-related adjustments. Multiply your child’s weight in pounds by the number of grams of protein needed per pound of body weight to calculate their daily protein requirements.

Ages 1 to 3 – 0.81 grams (child’s weight in pounds x 0.81 = daily grams of protein)

Ages 4 to 6 – 0.68 grams

Ages 7 to 10 – 0.55 grams

 

Sources of protein are fish, meat, poultry, tofu and eggs, which are complete proteins, meaning they have all the essential amino acids. You can combine various ingredients so as to have a complete protein: rice and beans, grains and legumes, and nuts or seeds with dairy.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are easily converted to glucose, the body’s main fuel source. Carbohydrates are needed for fat metabolism and to regulate protein. There are simple carbohydrates that have one or two connected sugar molecules and are found in candy, refined foods such as white bread, and many processed foods. Complex carbohydrates have three or more sugar molecules and can be found in whole grains and vegetables.

Dietary fiber passes through the digestive tract almost completely unchanged, helping it to run smoothly and encouraging proper elimination of waste products. There is soluble

and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water and takes on a soft, gel-like texture in the intestines. Insoluble fiber, found in seeds and the cell walls in fruits, vegetables and cereal grains, passes essentially unchanged through the intestines. Dietary fiber is an important determinant of health.

Each gram of carbohydrates releases four grams calories or units of heat for the body. Approximately fifty percent of one’s daily caloric intake should be from complex carbohydrates. Foods rich in carbohydrates include, dried peas and beans, rice, fruits, and vegetables. Many of these foods contain both starch and fiber.

Fats or Lipids

Fat molecules are a rich source of energy for the body. Fats are necessary for the smooth running of our gastrointestinal system, for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and to provide energy reserves and regulation of body temperature. Fats are necessary for growth, healing, healthy skin, reproduction and nervous system functioning.

Essential fatty acids (EFA) are fats that our bodies cannot synthesize and therefore it is essential we consume them in our food. It is important to maintain an appropriate balance between the essential fatty acids: Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and Omega-6’s (alpha-linoleic acid.) Ideally the ratio would be 1:1, but no more than 4 times as many Omega 6’s to Omega 3’s.

Each gram of fats releases nine calories or units of heat or energy for the body. Your intake of healthy fats should be twenty five percent of your daily calories.

Sources of healthy fats are cold-water fish, walnuts, flax oil and seeds, eggs, pumpkin seeds, purslane, olive oil and macadamia nut oil.

Fats to Avoid:

These are unnatural fats or damaged fats; “trans-fats” is another name, and your body can not process them. Watch for the term hydrogenated-fats found in processed foods, margarine and most shortening. Also avoid non-dairy creamers, imitation mayonnaise or sour cream, deep fat-fried foods, pressurized whipped cream, many sandwich spreads, and rancid fats.

Cooking Tips:

Never heat flax oil.

Never smoke fat or use a very high heat on fats; you will create a damaged fat.

Mustard Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons shallots, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lemon, juiced

3/4 cup olive oil, can also use flax oil

In a jar, place mustard, chopped shallots, chopped garlic, and lemon juice. Mix with a spoon, then slowly pour in olive oil and shake.

If you are a purest, then place the mustard, shallots, garlic and lemon in a bowl and slowly whisk in the olive or flax oil. If not, throw it in a jar and shake.

Variation: Add 1 tablespoon of honey for a Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette

Sandwich Ideas

With school back in full-swing sandwiches can go from creative and inspired to quick, easy, and sometimes boring.

Some simple tips are to use bread that is at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per slice, and heap on the veggies! In that school lunch also ad some kind of veggies-carrot and celery stick and red pepper slices are perfect, and if you like a nice piece of fruit.

Here are some sandwich ideas for you!

Sandwiches:

Sometimes the spread can really perk up your sandwich. Try the Chipotle Dressing on the Mexican Wrap, Garlic Herb Aioli on the Peasant Loaf, or spread your High Tea sandwich with Maitre d’ Butter. Sometimes it’s all about inspiration.

Peasant Loaf
Cut crusty French or Italian bread in half lengthwise, brush with olive oil or butter, fill with thin slices of Gruyere cheese, fresh thyme leaves, mixed salad greens, thinly sliced tomatoes and red onions, sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.

High Tea Sandwiches: Have a tea party!
Use thinly sliced bread of your choosing, spread with butter or mayonnaise (regular or vegan-type) and fill with thinly sliced radishes, thinly sliced English cucumber, chopped scallions, watercress, and fresh or dried dill.

Tuscan Grill
Fill wholegrain bread, rolls or pizza dough with leftover grilled vegetables–bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini or summer squash, tomatoes, onions. Use season-appropriate vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh herbs. Ratatouille will work if you have leftovers.

Asian Inspired
Sauté onion, celery, garlic, ginger, and Asian greens (Chinese cabbage, bok choy, etc) in a little sesame oil and soy sauce until tender. Spread a piece of pita bread or a wrap lightly with peanut butter and stuff or roll with veggie mixture.

Chapati
Spread one half of a chapati or other soft bread, flatbread, or pita with egg salad made with diced green or red onions, radishes and curry powder to taste. Add lettuce or spinach and fold in half to serve.

Middle Eastern
Spread halved whole-grain bagels with cream cheese and hummus or baba ganoush, thinly sliced cucumbers, chopped lettuce and tomato, and toasted sesame seeds.

The Herbal Power House
Place the following on a whole-grain roll — mayonnaise, sliced Monterey Jack cheese, alfalfa sprouts, sliced tomato, grated carrots, and a sprinkling of parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, and oregano.

Mexican Wrap
Mix leftover cooked beans, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack, chopped jalapeno chilies, chopped fresh tomatoes, grated jicama, salsa, sour cream, and chopped fresh cilantro in a wrap.

Portobello Sandwich
Slice leftover grilled or pan-fried Portobello caps, toss with barbecue sauce, aioli or pesto mixed with a little mayonnaise, and add to your favorite bread (focaccia cut horizontally is nice) with as many seasonal veggies as you can!

Egg Sandwich
Butter each side of two slices of bread-any type you like, including an English muffin. Place in a cast iron pan or other skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Flip and do the same on the other side. If you like, place some cheese to melt on this side of the bread. Remove from pan. Fry a large egg in a little butter and when you flip it, sprinkle with a little sea salt and pepper. You may also fry a small slice of ham with the egg for your sandwich if you like. Not a sandwich to be eaten often!

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