Nutrition and Snacking
Are you a smart snacker? What is your favorite or go to snack? Even if you eat three meals a day, you may still need a snack to keep you going. Ninety-five percent (95%) of children and teens snack throughout the day (1). Snacks contribute up to one third of total daily calories (1). Foods and beverages consumed as snacks can hinder or improve overall diet quality.
Why Do We Snack?
Snacks can boost energy and keep your appetite steady between meals. Children and teens snack 2-3 times per day, younger children may snack even more as they tend to eat smaller meals. You may snack because you are bored, distracted, hungry, with friends or skipped a meal. Many factors influence snacking habits.
What Do We Snack On?
The most popular snacks are candy, fruit, cookies, chips, popcorn, ice cream and crackers. Snacks typically contribute additional calories, added sugars and fats to the diet.
What you snack on can depend on the time of day, where you’re snacking, what’s available, and who you are with.
Tips to Become a Smart Snacker
Snacks can be a great opportunity to add missing food groups and nutrients to our day! The 5 tips below can help you become a smart snacker!
1. Combine Food Groups
First, combine food groups to build nutritious snacks. The five food groups are fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. Each food group provides important vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy body.
Examples are grapes and cheese, crackers and hummus, and carrot sticks and peanut butter. Pair fruits, vegetables and whole grains with dips and spreads. Top a rice cake with nut butter and sliced bananas to get 3 food groups! By combining two or more food groups you get a snack that is more satisfying, nutritious and colorful.
2. Read Labels
Check the serving size. If the package contains 2 or more servings you are doubling or tripling the amount of calories, sugar, fat and other nutrients listed on the label.
Check the label for sugar, fat, and salt. Regardless of age, most children and teens are exceeding the daily limit for added sugar, saturated fat, and salt (2). Look for low sodium, not salt added or no added sugar snack foods.
Find whole grain varieties of your favorite snack foods. Look for words such as whole [name of the grain], whole wheat, brown rice, oats, or corn on the ingredients list. Whole grain foods contain more fiber than refined grain food products.
3. Plan Your Snacks
When grocery shopping, consider not only what ingredients you need for meals but also what you will need for snacks. If any snacks require preparation, such as fresh vegetables, prepare them in advance. If buying large packages of snacks such as pretzels or chips, portion them into smaller bags or containers. Also assign a time and place for snack time.
4. Choose Convenience
Consider pre-cut fruits or vegetables, single serving cheese, crackers, or other pre-portioned snacks. These products may be more expensive at the grocery store but can save you meal prep time. When purchasing canned fruits, buy fruits packed in 100% juice, water, or light syrup. Consider frozen fruits or vegetables if making a smoothie or parfait.
5. Make Your Own Snacks
Lastly, instead of buying pre-packaged snack foods, try making your own snacks at home! Make homemade dips, granola, fruit and vegetable kabobs, tortilla chips, yogurt sundaes, fruit pops, smoothies, or trail mix. Making your own snacks puts you in control of the ingredients.
Recipes to Be a Smart Snacker
Trail Mix: Combine nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and whole grain goodies. For a sweet and salty mix combine cereal, raisins, peanuts, pretzels and shredded coconut. The trail mix possibilities are endless! Store in an air tight container or zip top bag.
Yogurt Sundae: Spoon low-fat yogurt, fresh, frozen or canned fruit and granola into a glass for a quick snack or healthy breakfast! If you don’t have granola, use your favorite whole grain cereal instead. Use Greek yogurt for extra protein.
Fruit Pizza: Spread yogurt or cream cheese on a rice cake and top with sliced fruit. Not a dairy fan? Try any kind of nut butter in place of the yogurt or cream cheese.
Zesty Yogurt Dip: In a bowl, combine plain yogurt, minced garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, dried parsley and grated parmesan cheese. Serve this zesty yogurt dip with whole wheat crackers, pita bread, or sliced vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, or bell peppers!
Snacks can be a part of a healthy eating pattern. Snacks can satisfy hunger, provide energy, and give our bodies necessary vitamins and minerals. Everyone can be a smart snacker by incorporating multiple food groups, reading food labels, planning snacks, considering convenience, and preparing homemade snacks. Try making a healthy snack at home using two or more food groups!