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Choosing Healthy Snacks

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Updated June 10, 2014

Family Snack Time
Peter Cade/Getty Images

Most people like to eat snacks. Sometimes out of habit or boredom, and sometimes because of real hunger. If you're snacking because you're bored, maybe you should get a hobby, but if you're snacking because you're hungry, you should choose a treat that's healthy and nutritious.

So what exactly is a nutritious snack? I mean, a snack can be a good source of low-calorie nutrition if you choose wisely -- eating fruits, vegetables or whole grain crackers can add plenty of nutrients and fiber, for example.

But a snack can also be a big calorie blow-out if you treat yourself to a big bowl of ice cream or wolf down a big bag of greasy chips.

Healthy Snack Ideas

Think of your snack as a mini-meal and keep it balanced by choosing a little protein, a bit of healthful fat, and some carbohydrates, like a combination of high-fiber breads, crackers, or fresh vegetables and fruits, plus nuts or nut butters.

Remember that a snack should be small -- just a little something to get you to your next meal, because when your snacks get too big, you run the risk of consuming too many calories. 

  • Spread peanut butter on six whole grain crackers and serve with one ounce of cheese (about the size of a pair of dice).
  • Cut an apple into bite-size chunks and add them to one-half cup low-fat cottage cheese. Sprinkle one tablespoon chopped walnuts or pecans (and a little honey if you like sweetness).
  • Slice a whole grain pita into six wedges and serve with hummus and a handful of fresh berries on the side.
  • Make a fruit and cheese plate. Slice one apple and one pear, and serve with fresh grapes, whole grain crackers and a few thin slices of your favorite cheese.
  • Combine one cup plain low-fat yogurt with one-half cup blueberries or strawberry slices, and one-quarter cup chopped walnuts or almonds. Add just enough honey to suit your taste.
  • Spread almond butter on a piece of whole wheat toast and add a spoonful of 100-percent fruit spread. Serve with a glass of non-fat milk.
  • Serve olives and marinated red peppers with a piece of warm whole grain bread.
  • Some people choose baby food to eat as snacks and to control portion size. You don't need to go that far, but choosing small portions helps prevent over-eating.
  • Bake your own tortilla chips and serve them with a chunky mango-black bean salsa.
  • Make a bowl of hot steel cut oatmeal and serve with a sliced banana, one-half cup berries and a splash of non-fat milk or almond milk. Add a drizzle of honey and a few sliced almonds.
  • Have a small salad with spinach leaves, broccoli florets, tomato slices and top with one-quarter cup shredded cheese and one tablespoon of your favorite dressing.
  • Use a high-speed blender (like the Nutri-Ninja) to create smoothies, juices and soups with fresh fruits and vegetables.

But what if you really want a 'fun' snack?

If you want to splurge on a candy bar, potato chips or a cookie, remember that it's fine to do that once in awhile (even once a day if you keep within your calorie budget), but keep your portions extra small -- just one cookie, one small candy bar, or a single serving of chips. 

Source:

United States Department of Agriculture. "ChooseMyPlate.gov" http://www.choosemyplate.gov/professionals/MyPyramidDevelopment/JNEBGlossary.pdf.

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