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.

Snacks

Give More Thought to Snacks

According to some recent surveys of our dietary habits, 75% of us eat breakfast, 88% eat lunch, and 90% of us snack daily yet we don’t plan snacks like we do other meals.

Eating candy, chips, donuts, cookies and other unhealthy snacks will amp you up and satisfy your cravings temporarily but will cause your blood sugar to rise and just as quickly drop, making you feel lethargic, moody and still hungry because you haven’t given your body the fuel it needs. For those with children, studies have shown that up to 45% of a child’s caloric intake can be in the form of snacks. Therefore planning ahead for snacks is as important as the meals you plan for you and your family.

If you think about your daily snacks as another meal, then that meal should supplement breakfast, lunch and dinner. Let’s say you serve oatmeal for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch and salmon, brown rice and steamed broccoli for dinner. Complementing snacks would be fruit and some raw veggies such as carrot and celery sticks.

If you have children, does your child attend day care or an after school program? Do you know what snacks are being served? Find out then send a healthy alternative if need be.

Here are some snacking tips:

  • Snack first and then get to chores, homework or other activities. When you eat and do other things, such as watching TV, you tend to overeat because you aren’t paying attention. After school snack time is a great time to take a break and re-connect with family members.
  • If you have it on hand, you will eat it! Avoid buying processed snack foods and stock up on fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains instead.
  • Snacking, like meals, fuel the body. You can get that with a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Hummus and sliced vegetables, for instance, contain all 3 macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and good fats.
  • What time of day do you need a snack? For many adults (and kids) it’s late afternoon. Arm yourself with healthy snacks instead of scrambling and settling for something sugary.
  • Be aware of what you drink. A sugar-sweetened drink or a high-sugar and fat coffee drink is not a healthy snack.
  • Pay attention to portions. According to Dr. Brian Wansink, director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, people think they make about 15 food decisions a day when in actuality the number is well over 200. Some decisions are obvious and others are subtle, such as the bigger the plate, the larger the spoon, the deeper the bag, the more we eat. If you think about this in terms of snacks, then it would be important to measure your snacks. If you are eating veggies for snacks then measuring would not be necessary; eat all you want! (French fries EXCLUDED.)

Examples of Healthy Snacks:

Half an apple with 2 teaspoons of peanut or almond butter

Leftover roasted vegetables (yum!)

An orange and a few raw almonds or walnuts

1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce with 1 slice of whole-grain toast, cut into 4 strips for dunking

Popcorn, seasoned with herbs, garlic, nutritional yeast and a bit of olive oil. Remember to avoid using microwaves.

Plain yogurt with berries

A small tossed salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, or whatever is in season, tossed with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and flax or olive oil.

Hummus or bean dip and veggies or baked whole-wheat pita bread or whole grain crackers.

A small smoothie made with fresh fruit (toss in some spinach leaves!) and whey powder.

Sushi made with brown rice and slices vegetables (cukes, carrots, green onion, red pepper, avocado.)

 

Give More Thought to Snacks

Give More Thought to Snacks

by Patty James

According to a recent survey of American’s dietary habits 75% of us eat breakfast, 88% eat lunch, and 90% of us snack daily, yet we don’t plan snacks like we do other meals.

Eating candy, chips, donuts, cookies, and other unhealthy snacks will satisfy your cravings temporarily, but they cause your blood sugar to rise and just as quickly drop, making you feel lethargic, moody, and still hungry because you haven’t given your body the fuel it needs. For those with children, studies have shown that up to 45% of the average American child’s caloric intake comes from snacks. Therefore, planning ahead for snacks is as important as the meals you plan for you and your family.

If you think about your daily snacks as another meal, then that meal should supplement breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Let’s say you serve oatmeal for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch, and salmon with brown rice and steamed broccoli for dinner. Complementary snacks might be fruit or some raw veggies, since those don’t make an appearance in the three main meals.

If you have children, does your child attend day care or an after school program? Do you know what snacks are being served? Find out! If you feel that the snacks your child receives there aren’t healthy, put together your own snack bags for your child to bring with them.

Here are some snacking tips:

  • Snack first before chores, homework, or other activities. When you eat while doing other things, such as watching TV, you tend to overeat because you aren’t paying attention to your intake. An after-school snack-time is a great way to take a break and re-connect with kids who’ve been away at school all day.
  • If you have it on hand, you will eat it! That is, if you’re trying to avoid processed snack foods, don’t buy them. Stock up on snacks that make you feel good like fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Snacks are fuel for the body, just like meals. Aim for a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates in your snacks just like you would with a regular meal. Hummus and sliced vegetables, for instance, contain all 3 macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and good fats.
  • Take note of what time of day you tend to snack. For many adults (and kids), it’s late afternoon. Anticipate your hunger and arm yourself with healthy snacks instead of scrambling and settling for something sugary.
  • Be aware of what you drink. A sugary drink or a high-sugar and fat coffee drink is not a healthy snack. It won’t fill you up – the most it will do is cause a blood sugar spike.
  • Pay attention to portions. According to Dr. Brian Wansink, director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, people make over 200 food decisions a day. Some decisions are subtle, like choosing plate size, which influences how much we eat at that meal. It is just as important to be mindful of snack portions. However, if you’re eating fresh fruits and vegetables, you don’t really even need to measure! (French fries EXCLUDED.)

Examples of Healthy Snacks:

  • Half an apple with 2 teaspoons of peanut or almond butter
  • An orange and a few raw almonds or walnuts
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce with 1 slice of whole-grain toast, cut into 4 strips for dunking
  • Popcorn, seasoned with herbs, garlic, nutritional yeast and a bit of olive oil.
  • Plain yogurt with berries
  • A small tossed salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, or whatever is in season, tossed with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and flax or olive oil.
  • Hummus or bean dip and veggies, or baked whole-wheat pita bread or whole grain crackers.
  • Sushi made with brown rice and sliced vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, green onion, red pepper, avocado, etc)

Happy snacking!