Snacking tips for a healthier you

An important part of eating healthy is focusing on healthier snacks that can help you maintain your weight and help meet dietary recommendations.

New Year resolutions often find many of us trying to improve our eating and focusing on weight loss. Dieters typically exercise their will-power by eating lightly all day, only to have twice as much at dinner. When hungry or bored, it’s easy to grab a handful of snack food or a pre-packaged treat. An important part of eating healthy is focusing on healthier snacks that can help maintain weight or aid weight loss and help you to meet the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) My Plate recommendations for health. Balancing food intake by spreading calories throughout the day instead of eating three square meals derives many health benefits.

Unfortunately, most people don’t replace breakfast, lunch and dinner with nutritious mini-meals. Instead, they eat their regular meals and they nibble, too – usually on heavily processed snack foods that are low in nutrients and high in saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, salt and calories. If you can have a series of healthful mini-meals every day, great! Most of us can’t rearrange our lives that much, but we can learn to make more healthful choices.

Here are some recommendations from Michigan State University Extension for snack tips that you and your family can start:

  • Check your portion sizes. You may be eating healthy foods, but you could be eating too much. If you are snacking, your meals need to be smaller.
  • Stock up on nutritious foods that you like. Be realistic about it. We tend to eat for taste more than nutrition, so choose the most nutritious foods that you will actually eat for a snack. You might munch on a fresh apple or a small baked potato with salsa.
  • Keep nutritious snacks easy to grab. Prepackage homemade snacks, freeze leftovers in small portions to microwave for a mini-meal or divide a package of nuts or crackers into single-serving snack bags. The time it takes to do this will save time later.
  • Keep meals and snacks simple. People eat more in quantity when there is more variety present.
  • Stick a list of healthful snacks on the fridge. When you are in a hurry, it will help remind you of good choices.
  • Young children need to eat frequently because their stomachs are small. Their snacks truly should be mini-meals of highly nutritious food.

Super snacks: Mealtime foods tend to be more nutritious, so avoid packaged snack foods and think “mini-meals” when you snack.

  • Try soup-go for non-creamy soups. They are good for you, fill you up and take a while to eat because they are hot. They’re also wonderful sipped from a mug.
  • Yogurt – High in calcium and protein, yogurt is a satisfying snack. Choose fat-free or low-fat yogurt and mix in your own fruit. Read labels, as some yogurts have a lot of sugar added.
  • Leftovers – If you serve nutritious dinners, plan on leftovers for a snack.
  • Half a sandwich – Top a slice of whole grain bread with lean fixings and munch away.

Follow these tips and you are on your way to more nutritious snacking and a healthier you!

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