Snacking has a bad reputation; more often than not, it's viewed as little more than an opportunity to ingest excessive calories, fat, sugar and sodium. And it's seen as something most of us do far too often. But snacking--smart snacking--has an important place in a healthful diet. In fact, research has found that making healthful snacks a regular part of your routine can help maintain a healthy weight and prevent unhealthy highs and lows in blood sugar. Here's what you need to know to get on the smart snack track.
Snacking Improves Your Diet. If you make smart choices, snacking can make significant contributions to the nutritional quality of your diet. The trick is sticking with nutrient-rich basic--fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and reduced-fat and fat-free dairy--and if you do, you'll boost your diet's nutrient count even more, for the fewest calories.
Snacking Aids Weight Loss. As counterintuitive as it may sound, studies show that smart snacking can dampen hunger pangs and prevent overeating at meals. It can also play an important role in controlling cravings, by creating predictable frequent eating times. And it can help you maintain your weight loss. Research suggests that allowing for snacks helps stack the odds in your favor for long-term weight-loss success more than a strict three-meals-a-day approach. That's because if you snack right, you won't eat any more calories than you do now.
Need proof? A study published earlier this year in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate a high-protein, moderate-calorie snack (in this case, cheese) one hour before lunch, automatically cut back their calories during subsequent meals on the same day.
Snacking Smoothes Out Blood Sugar. Snacking at regular intervals can help prevent abnormally high or abnormally low blood sugar in people with diabetes or glucose intolerance. If that's you, check with your doctor or nutritionist for advice on how often to snack. It can vary depending on what diabetes medications you take and how well you're typically able to keep your blood sugar under control.
Now that you know why you should snack, see "Smart Snacking Tips," below, for how to snack and "License to Snack Smart," right, for what to snack on.
EN's Smart Snacking Tips
* Avoid mindless noshing. Don't eat while you're watching TV or talking on the phone. Those unconcious calories can really add up before you're even aware of what you're doing.
* Stick with whole foods--whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, low-fat dairy, low-fat meats and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds. (See related feature, page 1.)
* Be sure your snack provides some protein. Carb-only snacks, like pretzels or saltines, won't keep you satisfied for long. Think nuts, cheese, peanut butter or yogurt.
* Plan ahead. Smart snacks don't just happen. Buy portable options like cheese sticks, grapes or cereal bars to keep on hand, so something is always ready to grab on the go.
* Keep convenience in mind. Anything that takes preparation can sway you to the dark side for an alternative that's easier to eat, even though it's high in fat and calories. To combat that, have fresh fruit on hand and keep some of it cut up, so it's as easy to grab as a cookie.
* Portion-control your snacks. Preportion your snacks so you're not tempted to snack indefinitely. If you're at home, plate your snacks; never eat out of a can, box or bag.
* Always pack smart snacks for the road. If you're going to be traveling, be sure you bring a snack or two to tide you over in case there are unexpected delays.
License to Snack Smart
Whether it's a mid-morning, mid-afternoon or evening, be sure your snack provides protein and, ideally, fiber to keep you satisfied.
Try also to keep calories at 150 or fewer. Here are a few suggestions:
* Black bean salsa and celery sticks
* Roasted almonds, pistachios, any nut
* Broccoli florets and reduced-fat ranch dressing
* Crispbread with low-fat cottage cheese
* Fresh fruit, washed, cut and ready-to-eat with a slice of low-fat cheese
* Hardboiled egg
* Hummus and whole-wheat pita
* Individual drink box of low-fat milk, soy milk or rice milk
* Individual low-fat yogurt
* Snack-size low-fat popcorn
* Preportioned trail mix
* Reduced-fat cheese sticks
* Soy nuts
* Whole-grain cereal with nonfat milk
* Whole-grain crackers with peanut butter
* Whole-grain chips with bean dip
* Whole-wheat fig bars
Densie Webb, Ph.D., R.D.
Webb, Densie. "Regular snacking is smart snacking: making it happen." Environmental Nutrition May 2009: 2. Academic OneFile. Web. 28 Nov. 2009.
Gale Document Number:A200408569
(Album / Profile) http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=10034&id=1661531726&l=0b77e26203