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Healthy snacking can help maintain metabolic and overall health

Healthy snacking can help maintain metabolic and overall health

Have you upgraded your snacks in the interest of more healthful eating? Have you traded in your afternoon candy bar for an energy bar or have become a fan of baked potato chips or fat-free ice cream? Do you pay extra attention when the label says “organic” or “natural”? A “fat-free” label doesn’t mean you can eat all you want without consequences. Many fat-free foods are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories.


Do

Do go for the grain

Whole-grain snacks, such as whole-grain low-salt pretzels or tortilla chips and high-fiber, whole-grain cereals, can give you some energy with staying power.

Do bring back breakfast

Many breakfast foods can be repurposed as a nutritious snack later in the day. For example, try a slice of whole-grain toast topped with low-sugar jam; also low-sugar granola makes a quick snack.

Do try a “hi-low” combination

Eat a healthy fat (good for the heart) with fruit or vegetables. Combine a small amount of something with healthy fat, like peanut butter, with a larger amount of something very light, like apple slices or celery sticks. Other examples of healthy fats include: avocado, olives.

Do the combo snack

Try to eat more than one macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) at each snacking session. For example, have a few nuts (protein and fat) and some grapes (carbohydrates). Try some whole-grain crackers (carbohydrate) with some low-fat cheese (protein and fat). These balanced snacks tend to keep you feeling satisfied.

Do have a glass of water before reaching for a snack

Most people confuse thirst with hunger and will start to snack when their bodies are just trying to tell them they’re thirsty. Before you reach for that snack, have a glass of water first. Then give yourself five minutes and see if you are still hungry.


Don't

Do not eat chips or pretzels

Refrain from chips and pretzels and instead “Go Nuts”: Unsalted nuts and seeds make a great snack. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, hazelnuts, filberts, and others contain many beneficial nutrients and are more likely to leave you feeling full (unlike chips or pretzels). Nuts have lots of calories, though, so keep portion sizes small.

Do not multi-task and snack

Multi-tasking while snacking is a no no. Do not eat your snack while doing something else like surfing the Web, watching TV, or working at your desk. Instead, stop what you are doing for a few minutes and eat your snack like you would a small meal. Eating and snacking are events and should be done alone.

Do not eat from the vending machine

Take your snack with you. Think ahead and carry a small bag of healthful snacks in your pocket or purse so you will not turn in desperation to the cookies at the coffee counter or the candy bars in the office vending machine.

Do not make unhealthy food choices

Create a shopping list and stick to it. Write a list every time you go grocery shopping, no exceptions. Don’t buy anything that has a fat content which is over 5 percent per serving. Replace your favorite foods that contain a high fat content with healthier alternative, such as fruits, veggies, nuts.

Do not skip meals

Create set meals and snack times for yourself throughout the day and stick to them. Such as breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner. This will help you to stick to a nutritious eating schedule, and will also fight the urge to nibble on unhealthy foods by keeping you full on healthier options.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

It is a great idea to choose snacks wisely. But many foods that seem to be of a great nutritional value, are not. Bran muffins and cereal bars can be packed with unhealthy fats and added sugar. Fat-free foods often contain lots of added salt and sugar.

A snack can help maintain metabolic health, regulate blood sugar and lead to better, healthier meal choices and greater portion control during lunch or dinner. It's just an added source of calories. Make your calories “good” calories.

Remember, when you do something for 28 days it becomes a habit.


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Photo Credits: healthy snack by Flickr: Kevin; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Dr. Joy Ohayia, PhDTotal Wellness Practical Advisor

Dr. Joy is the television host of her own show, a highly sought after motivational speaker, an author and she created a 30-minute or less wellness regime DVD focusing on 3 wellness components: Nutrition, Mental, and Physical. As the producer ...

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