Nutrition - Snacking
People often think of snacking as something bad and unhealthy. As a result, they often try to prevent eating between meals. However, snacking can be an important part of a healthy diet depending on the choices people make. Many health experts recommend fueling up on several mini-meals throughout the day instead of eating three big meals. The right snacks can help boost energy levels and help people get the well-balanced variety of foods they need each day.
Snacking is not part of a healthy diet if a person fills up frequently on fatty, sugary foods. Snacks such as soda, chocolate candy, chips, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, and ice cream are not what a person should reach for first when looking for a snack. Filling up on these kinds of snacks leaves little room for the other foods people need. Even if people eat the foods they do need along with these snacks, they will probably end up with too much fat and calories in their diets. An excess of calories and fat can be harmful to a person's health. Snacks like soda, chips, chocolate and candy are okay in moderation, but snacks from one of the major food groups should be the first choice. Looking at food labels can also help a person make good snack choices. Good snack choices mean nutrient-dense snacks.
GOOD SNACK CHOICES
- Cereal with low-fat milk
- Pretzels, baked tortilla chips
- Vanilla wafers
- Raw veggies dipped in salsa, hummus, or low-fat salad dressing
- Fresh fruit dipped in low-fat yogurt
- Fruit-flavored low-fat yogurt
- Light microwave popcorn
- Canned fruit, packed in its own juices
- 100% fruit juice
- Frozen yogurt or sorbet
- Pudding made with low-fat milk
- Graham crackers or animal crackers
- Low-fat granola bars
- Banana with peanut butter
A nutrient-dense food is a food that provides a good source of nutrients in relation to its calories. For example, a cup of broccoli, a piece of custard pie, and a half-ounce of cheddar cheese all provide similar amounts of the mineral calcium. The pie by far has the most calories, the broccoli the least. The broccoli has the highest nutrient density for calcium because it provides the most calcium for the least amount of calories, which is most beneficial for the body's health. Healthy snacking means combining snacks from the different groups in the food pyramid, such as a banana with low-fat yogurt to meet a fruit and a milk serving. It's important to try to eat fewer snack foods that provide little in the way of nutrients. These snacks are usually high in calories, fat or sugar (or all three) and low in vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates.
Moderation Is the Key
All foods can fit into a healthy diet. The key to healthy eating is balance, variety, and moderation. This means eating a variety of foods without getting too many calories or too much of any one nutrient, especially fat. If portion sizes are kept reasonable it's easy to eat the foods one wants and stay healthy. Favorite foods need only be reduced, not completely eliminated from the diet. Most people eat for pleasure as well as nutrition. If favorite foods are high in fat and/or sugar, the key is to moderate how much and how often they are eaten.
Not every food and every meal has to be perfect for a person to be healthy. When eating foods high in fat, salt, or sugar one should also choose foods that
aren't. If one food group is missed one day, it can be made up for the next. Food choices over several days should fit together into a healthy eating pattern.
Foods are not "good" or "bad," but a diet can be. People should not feel bad if they enjoy foods such as ice cream, candy, or chips. Favorite foods can be eaten in smaller quantities less frequently, balancing them with healthier choices to provide the variety and balance that is important in a healthy diet.