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Published on July 18, 2018
By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.
Gobble, gulp and go is the theme of eating in America.
We’re snacking more than ever and overhauling the very definition of the American meal. Snack food is becoming the meal. There’s not even a good definition of what constitutes a snack and what is a meal.
Snacking has increased from 59 percent in the late 1970s to 90 percent in 2009, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 1 in 6 adults get more than 40 percent of their total daily calories from snacks. Snacks were defined as eating between meals.
Snacking is becoming a national pastime in our busy, over-scheduled lives. We snack while driving, shopping, meeting, worshipping, watching television and scrolling social media.
We don’t have time to cook or eat a meal. We’re not taking the time to plan what we will eat for the day. Convenience in food preparation has been the path of least resistance for many years.
Snacking has benefits, if we wisely choose what we eat. Choosing whole foods or minimally processed foods can ensure we get important vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that improve our health. Choose fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
One risk of snacking is not being aware of how many extra calories we may be taking. We don’t often eat less at the next meal if we’ve had a snack and that can lead to weight gain. A good option is to plan two snacks instead of one meal.
Another risk is that we eat mindlessly. We snack without experiencing the true taste, texture or flavor of our food. The habit of eating mindlessly is another risk for weight gain.
Here’s how to use snacks wisely:
Whole food or minimally processed
Fiber2 grams or more
ProteinAt least 3 grams
Fresh FruitsApples, bananas, oranges, clementines, grapes, cherries, pears berries, melon, kiwi,
Does not have protein, but is loaded with vitamins and minerals
Fresh VegetablesGrape tomatoes, carrots, celery, jicama, cucumber, broccoli, pea pods, cauliflower
Most – Yes
Hummus or bean dips
Great with vegetables or whole-grain crackers
Whole-grain chips and crackersTriscuits, Wheat Thins, Crunch Master, Food should Taste Good multigrain, Garden of Eatin
PopcornSkinny Pop, Boom Chicka pop
Yes, if plain or Greek without a lot of added sugar
Yes – Greek yogurt has more protein
Add your own fruit to increase fiber
Light String Cheese
Great source of protein
Nuts and Trail Mixes
Avoid trail mixes with candy added. Choose lightly salted or less than 100 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Snack BarsKind Bars, Kashi Bars, Lara Bars, Nature Valley Bars
Choose the varieties lowest in sugar
This is a quick and easy trail mix recipe that kids enjoy putting together. It’s a great source of the good fats we need in our diet. It provides a little fruit, a little protein and a lot of satisfaction.
1½ cup dried fruits, such as apricots, apples, pineapple, mango or prunes. (Avoid dried bananas, very high in bad fat)¼ cup raisins and/or dried cranberries1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds2 cups unsalted roasted almonds or peanuts or chopped walnuts or pecans
Use a scissors to snip dried fruit into small pieces. Combine all ingredients and store in an air-tight container.
Nutrition FactsServings: 16; serving size, ¼ cup; calories, 140; total fat, 10 grams; saturated fat, 1 gram; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 5 milligrams; potassium, 175 milligrams; carbohydrates, 11 grams; fiber, 3 grams; protein, 4 grams.
2 green onions25-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained½ cup salsa (sodium less than 75 milligrams per serving)¼ teaspoon cumin¼ teaspoon chili powder¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped
Place all ingredients, except cilantro, in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Add chopped cilantro. Serve with lower sodium tortilla chips or vegetables.
Nutrition FactsServings: 16; serving size, 2 tablespoons; calories, 65; total fat, 0 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 35 milligrams; potassium, 200 milligrams; carbohydrates, 12 grams; fiber, 4.5 grams; protein, 4 grams.