The Snack Trap: What You Don't Know About Snacks Could Hurt You
Try these snacks that taste good and are good for you.

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The Snack Trap: What You Don't Know About Snacks Could Hurt You

A healthy body weight is important for general well-being. It can also lessen the risk of developing some illnesses, like type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

Of course, everyone needs to eat. The key is to make healthy choices about what you eat and drink. That includes snack time.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that you:

  • Enjoy what you eat, but consume less.
  • Avoid oversized portions of food.
  • Eat until you are satisfied, not full.

Keep in mind that calories count. This is important if you want to lose weight or stay at a healthy weight. Some people write down everything they eat to stay on track.

Many of America's favorite snacks have a lot of "empty" calories. That means they don't have as many nutrients as a same-size portion of other foods.

So if you're trying to eat better at snack time and avoid those empty calories, here are some ideas:

  • Cut up veggies and serve with low-fat dressing or hummus.
  • Make a mini "pizza" with half a whole-grain English muffin. Top with tomato sauce, veggies and low-fat cheese. Heat it in the microwave or toaster oven.
  • Get fruity with fresh, dried or canned fruit.
  • Whip up homemade trail mix. Put popcorn, a small handful of dried fruit and unsalted nuts in a snack-size portion.
  • Blend up a smoothie. Use low-fat yogurt, 100 percent juice, frozen peaches or other favorite fruit.
  • Try mini "turkey wraps." Wrap low-sodium turkey slices around apple wedges.
  • Stir fizzy water into half a cup of 100 percent fruit juice as an alternative to sugary drinks.
  • Pick whole-grain treats like popcorn or oat cereal.
  • Drink a glass of fat-free or low-fat milk. Or try a non-dairy beverage like soymilk.
  • Keep single-serving items in the fridge. These might include hard-boiled eggs, low-fat yogurt or low-fat string cheese.
  • Bake treats at home using less sugar. Use raisins or dried apricots. Also, applesauce or prune puree can replace a lot of the fat in baked goods.
  • Go nutty. Have a small handful of almonds, or spread peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers.
  • If you have kids, make sure they know that snacks are for easing hunger. They shouldn't replace a balanced meal. Help them understand how much is enough.
  • It also helps to plan. Pack healthy snacks ahead of time if you know you're headed to school or work.

Here are some other ideas for sticking to an eating plan while still enjoying treats:

  • Check out the labels on your favorite packaged snacks. Pick those with lower calories and saturated fat. Watch out for added sugar, too. It's sometimes called sucrose, fructose or corn syrup.
  • Order sensibly. If you're out at a restaurant for appetizers, see if the menu has lower calorie options. Share a treat with friends, or order a smaller portion.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages. If you choose to consume alcohol, limit yourself to up to one drink a day for women, or two for men.

Eating healthy food - including snacks - can help you control your weight and keep your focus at school or work. It can also help you do your best when playing sports or doing physical activity.

By Mary Armstrong, Contributing Writer
Created on 03/13/2008
Updated on 09/22/2013
Sources:
  • United States Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010.
  • Weight-control Information Network. Charge up: Healthy meals and snack tips for teens.
  • United States Department of Agriculture. MyPlate snack tips for parents.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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