Over the past decade, the word “snack” has become synonymous with chips, cookies, or candy. However, snacks that are tasty, fun, and healthy can make a big difference in your daily nutrition. Snacks can fill the gap in nutrition that may be missed during mealtime. Not only do snacks help you meet your daily nutrient needs, they also provide you with energy to keep going and support lifelong healthy eating habits.
How to be a smart snacker:
Snacks play an important role in your nutrition. Most snacks should be fruits and vegetables since many of us do not eat the recommended five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables contain the necessary nutrients for your healthy. Try lots of different fruits and vegetables and prepare them in various ways to find out what you like best.
Fruit can be served whole, sliced, cut in half, cubed, or in wedges. Canned, frozen, and dried fruits often need little preparation. Keep a bowl of colorful produce on the kitchen counter for an easy on-the-go snack.
*Fresh: Dip apples in yogurt or bananas in peanut or almond butter. Sprinkle bananas with cocoa powder and unsweetened coconut flakes for a sweet snack. Try peeling a banana and dip it in yogurt, roll in crushed cereal, and freeze for later.
*Dried Fruit: Try raisins, apricots, apples, cranberries, pineapple, papaya, and others with little or no added sugars.
*Frozen Fruit: Try freezing grapes or buy frozen blueberries, strawberries, peaches, mangoes, and melon.
*Fruit Leathers: Some brands of fruit snacks are more like candy than fruit, and should be avoided due to their high content of added sugars and lack of fruit. Look for varieties with no added sugar.
*Smoothies: Blend fruit with 100% juice, yogurt or milk, and ice. Many store-made smoothies have added sugars so try making your own!
Mix and match
Vegetables can cut into fun shapes and served raw with many types of dip or salad dressing. Keep precut veggies in plain sight in the fridge for a quick snack.
*Dips: Try low-fat salad dressings, bean dips, guacamole, hummus, salsa, or peanut butter.
*Salad: Make a salad or set out veggies like a salad bar and let the kids build their own salads.
*Soy: Edamame are fun to eat and easy to serve. Heat frozen edamame in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes.
Veggie Pockets: Cut whole wheat pitas in half and let kids add veggies with dressing or hummus.
Go for the grain
Though most kids eat plenty of grain products, too many of those grains are cookies, cakes, sugary cereals, and other refined grains that are high in sugars or fat. Try to serve mostly whole grains, which provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than refined grains.
*Whole Wheat English Muffins, Pita, or Tortillas: Stuff them with veggies or dip them in hummus or bean dip.
*Breakfast Cereal: Either dry or with low-fat milk, whole grain cereals make good snacks. Look for cereals with no more than 8 grams of sugar per serving.
*Rice Cakes: Look for rice cakes made from brown (whole grain) rice. They come in many flavors, and can be served toppings like peanut butter and sliced bananas.
Baked Tortilla Chips: Baked tortilla chips are usually low in fat, and taste great with salsa and/or bean dip. Look for brands with less sodium.
*Whole wheat waffle: For a sweet treat, toast a whole wheat waffle and top with yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit.
Power with protein
Eating small amounts of protein with snacks will help tide you over until mealtime.
Yogurt: Look for brands that are low-fat or fat-free.
Try buying the plain variety and add all-fruit jam or honey to sweeten. Yogurt also can be served with fresh or frozen fruit or low-fat granola.
Low-Fat Cheese: Cheese provides calcium, but is often high in saturated fat. Serve cheese with other foods like fruit, vegetables, or whole grain crackers.
Nuts: Since nuts are high in calories, it is best to serve them along with another snack such as fruit. A small handful of nuts is a reasonable serving size. Examples include peanuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews, or soy nuts. Look for nuts that are unsalted.
Trail Mix: Trail mixes are easy to make and store well in a sealed container. Items to include: low-fat granola, whole grain cereals, peanuts, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and dried fruits like raisins, apricots, apples, pineapple, or cranberries.
Rethink your drink
Water should be your drink of choice throughout the day. Water satisfies thirst and does not have sugar or calories. Low fat dairy is a great source of calcium, which can help to build strong bones. Carbonated drinks like seltzer, sparkling water, and club soda are also healthy options. They do not contain the sugars, calories, and caffeine of sodas. Serve them alone or try making “healthy sodas” by mixing them with equal amounts of 100% fruit juice.
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