Front Range Community College Blog

To Snack or Not to Snack?

A snack is considered a small amount of food eaten between meals. Americans are snacking at higher rates than ever. According to the USDA’s food surveys of Americans, both the amount of snacking and the caloric density of the snacks has increased since 1977. It is estimated that 84% of adults snack which provides about 1/3 of an adult’s total caloric intake for a day. For men, that’s about 923 calories from snacks a day, and for women 624 calories. The calorie contribution from sweets as snacks decreased while the calories eating from high fat salty snacks doubled. Snacks contributed to both men and women eating 2-4x the amount of solid fats, sodium, and sugar than was recommended.  Many researchers are linking the increased incidence and calories from snacks to the obesity epidemic in both children and adults.

Why Snack?

Despite some of these alarming trends, snacking can be good for you when done right. Snacks can provide important nutrients and stabilize blood sugar. Studies have also shown that in male college students, an afternoon snack increased cognitive performance. Snacks that provide the right ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fats can help add important nutrients and fiber to your diet. The Agricultural Research Service surveyed 5,000 adults and found that snacking contributed to 1/3 of their fruit intake for the day.

Tips for Smart Snacking

  • Focus on eating 3 meals a day about 4 hours apart to limit the calories from snacking.
  • Think of snacks as “mini meals” and limit the calories from each snack to 200 or less.
  • Snack only when you are hungry. Resist the urge to nibble when you are bored, stressed, or tired.
  • Drink plenty of water, sometimes we mistake hunger for thirst.
  • Don’t drink your calories, limit your consumption of fruit juice, Gatorade, sweet teas, or other sweetened beverages.
  • Focus on foods like fruits, veggies, low fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Think about breaking up your meals into mini meals and snacks. For example, having yogurt and fruit for breakfast and a slice of toast as a snack.
  • Be careful of granola and protein bars due to the high amount of added sugar (look for 5 grams or less) and low fiber amounts (look for 3-5 grams).
  • Choose snacks that provide 7-10 grams of protein and at least 3-5 grams of fiber to provide a good balance of nutrients. Limit added sugar in a snack to 5 grams.
  • Always carry fruits and veggies with you to “round out” the vending machine snacks. Carry apples, raisins, nuts, and baby carrots with you.

10 Healthy Snacks:

  1. One Tablespoon of peanut butter and an apple.
  2. Two cups of cut up veggies (carrots, sweet peas, celery) with 2 Tablespoons cottage cheese.
  3. Three cups of popcorn with 1 oz of parmesan cheese.
  4. One whole wheat waffle and ½ cup of vanilla yogurt.
  5. Six whole wheat crackers with 1 cheese stick.
  6. One cup of low fat milk and 1 slice of whole grain bread.
  7. One apple and a slice of turkey and cheese.
  8. ½ cup cottage cheese with ½ cup of fruit.
  9. One cup edamame (soy beans) and a pear.
  10. One banana and 1 ounce of almonds.

 

If you are interested in learning more about nutrition and health, consider our Health and Wellness courses at FRCC.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Heuston , M.P.H., R.D., is a registered dietitian with 20 years experience of eating right and teaching others how to eat better. She is the Allied Health Department chair at the Westminster Campus of Front Range Community College, a community college in Colorado. She teaches several Human Nutrition courses.