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Monday, Sept. 11, 2017

STRATEGIES FOR SMART SNACKING

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Choose wisely to meet daily needs

Nearly one fourth of America’s daily calorie intake comes from snacks. Since snacks often account for a sizable portion of our diet, it is important to make smart choices. When done correctly, snacking can contribute necessary nutrients to your diet, help with appetite control, and may even aid in maintaining a healthy weight.

Snacking between meals means you are eating more frequently throughout the day, which may help with weight management, depending on the overall quality of your diet. Eating every three to four hours may help boost your metabolism and prevent hunger between meals that leads to unwise choices later in the day. If chosen wisely, snacks can also help you meet your daily needs. For those who have trouble obtaining sufficient nutrients in three square meals, snacking can be used to supplement the diet for specific needs. The most nutrient-rich snack choices are fruits and vegetables.

Snacks to avoid include those that are high in calories, sugar, sodium or fat. Eating too many foods rich in these nutrients can lead to an unhealthy weight and preventable diseases including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and some cancers. Though this advice seems simple, avoiding these foods can be difficult for many, as surveys have shown that the top three snacks in America are chips, chocolate and cheese. Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages throughout the day is also important, as the calories and sugar in one soda can add up to more than a snack provides.

The key to smart snacking is making wise choices and listening to your body. Snacks are meant to keep you satisfied for a few hours, not to fill you up. Choose snacks that are low in calories and high in essential nutrients like fiber, calcium, potassium and vitamin D, to name a few. The nutrition facts label, if present, can be a helpful guide. A rule of thumb is to aim for a snack that is no more than 300 calories. If your current diet is already meeting your calorie needs, adding snacks to your routine is not necessary. Also, try not to reach for a snack if you are not truly hungry. A good way to tell if you are hungry is to drink a glass of water, wait 10 minutes and check if you still feel hungry. More often than not, our bodies will give hunger cues when we are simply not drinking enough fluids. Highprotein snacks are a smart choice because they leave you more satisfied, but it is best to choose snacks with components from more than one food group. The ideal snack would include a protein and a fruit or vegetable component, which will supply your body with a wider variety of nutrients.

Planning your snacks ahead of time and keeping healthy favorites on hand can help you make better choices. Planning what you will eat can help you stay on track and avoid making unhealthy decisions that you may regret later in the day. Keeping healthful packaged snacks in a drawer at your desk, in your car or at home can be useful when you don’t have enough time to plan your snacks.

Listed below are some smart snacks and pairings to try this week:

• 1/2 cup edamame

• 1/2 cup roasted chickpeas

• 1/2 cup sliced peppers and 1 string cheese

• 3 tablespoons almonds and 1 banana

• 1/4 cup guacamole and 2 celery stalks, sliced

• 1/4 cup hummus and 1/2 cup baby carrots

• 1 medium-sized apple and 2 tablespoons peanut butter

• 1/4 cup trail mix made with dried fruits, whole grain cereal and nuts

• 1 cup Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup berries (watch for sugar content in yogurt)

• 3/4 cup frozen yogurt blueberry bites:

Coat blueberries in yogurt of choice and freeze

• 1 slice whole grain toast topped with 1 tablespoon peanut butter and 1 tablespoon raisins

• 1 packet instant oatmeal topped with 1/4 cup fruit of choice

Abigail Scallan is an assistant extension agent (general nutrition) for the LSU AgCenter. She is also a registered dietitian. Her main focus is adult nutrition education and promotion in Caddo and Bossier parishes. She can be reached at ascallan@ agcenter.lsu.edu.

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