Tips for smarter snacking

Most people eat snacks, but their snacks are more like meals if you think about the calories. Next time you reach for a snack, think 100 calories per snack time. If you can keep your snacks to a maximum of about 100 calories and two to three times a day, you may be surprised the number of calories you can cut from your diet.

The average number of snacks consumed per day by adults has doubled in the past 30 years according to the USDA Food Surveys Research Group. The survey also showed the following:

• Snacking on any given day rose from 59 to 90 percent.

• Snacking by adolescents has also significantly increased, going from 61 to 83 percent.

• Snacks provide, on average, about one-fourth of daily calories.

• Snacking more often throughout the day is associated with consuming more calories.

Become aware of your snacking. Read the labels on your snacks and make sure you are eating a serving size of the product.

A lot of snack items contain more than one serving per package. Always read the nutritional facts label and know what you are eating.

When you select a snack, also consider the nutritional value of the product. Snacks can nourish your body with energy and fill nutritional gaps with the right choices. Use the following tips to choose snacks that will contribute to a healthful eating plan:

• Select snack foods from the MyPlate food groups: (1) vegetables (2) fruit (3) whole grains (4) low-fat or fat-free dairy and (5) lean protein. Snacks from these foods contribute more nutritional value and usually fewer calories than foods high in sugar and fat.

• Develop a snack plan: To keep snacking under control, plan what to eat, how much and when to eat a snack. Planned snacking reduces the likelihood of overeating on notso healthy foods at a fast-food restaurant, vending machine or convenience store.

• Use snacks to supplement daily meals: To keep snacks from replacing meals, avoid eating snacks within one hour of meals.

• Keep nutritious snacks handy: Have nutritious snack choices available. Research shows that snacks are selected often because of availability. If your cupboard is full of cookies, chips and candy, it’s easy to make them your snack.

Rather, if fresh fruits are washed and vegetables cleaned, they become an easy choice.

Have healthy snacks portioned into snack-size bags or containers for “on-the-go” days. Snacks purchased with the weekly groceries can keep costs to a minimum and nutrition to a maximum.

• Eat snacks only when hungry: Thirst is often misinterpreted as hunger, so it is important to drink plenty of water during the day.

Every person has varying needs when it comes to snacking, depending on the amount of physical activity, portion sizes at meals, and work schedule.

• Adults may not need snacks between meals if they are inactive during the work day.

• lderly adults and toddlers may have difficulty eating large meals because of stomach capacity, and may do well with several small snacks throughout the day.

• Children and teens are more likely to need snacks because of their growth and the amount of time they are physically active.

Plan ahead for children’s snack needs to avoid last-minute unhealthy snacking decisions. There are lots of easy and nutritious snacks, but they probably take a little preparation.

Whatever the snacks you select, portion control is the key to staying around 100 calories.

If you start reading nutritional labels on your snacks, you may understand where some of your weight gain is coming from and take corrective action. Try the smaller portions of nutritious food for your health.

If you have additional questions, contact the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service-Milam County office at 100 E. 1st Street in Cameron - 254- 697- 7045 - or email

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2014-02-06 digital edition

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