13 Healthy Snacking Strategies
For Better Health
Considering how much Americans spend on snack foods each year (more than $22 billion in 2002!), it's no wonder between-meal eating is often blamed for the growing obesity epidemic. But researchers are now turning up evidence that grazing, when done properly, may actually be good for you. "Healthy snacking can help control your appetite and your weight," says Cynthia Sass, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "It's also a great way to fit in nutrient-rich foods and regulate mood."
Here, 13 snacking strategies that are guaranteed to improve your health, boost your energy, and help you lose pounds or maintain your weight.For Better Health
Divvy up your daily calories. A study in the British Medical Journal showed that people who consumed several snacks in addition to their daily meals had appreciably lower cholesterol levels than those who ate less often. Researchers speculate that frequent eating may steady insulin levels; this results in lower cholesterol production when your body metabolizes food. The key, however, is to bump up the number of meals you eat -- not to increase your total calorie intake. Divide what you already eat into smaller, more frequent meals, says study author Kay-Tee Khaw, MD. For example, have your banana as a midmorning snack rather than slicing it onto your breakfast cereal; eat half of your tuna sandwich at lunch and the other half later in the afternoon.
Use snacks to bridge nutritional gaps. If you suspect that your meals are deficient in protein or essential vitamins and minerals, use your snacks to pick up the slack. "An eight-ounce serving of yogurt or glass of skim milk will help you meet your protein and calcium requirements for the day," says Sass.
Fortified cereals are great sources of folate and iron: Simply portion out a serving in a plastic bag and toss it in your tote. Or reach for fresh fruit and raw veggies, which deliver a wealth of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber.
Nuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and essential nutrients including magnesium, potassium and folate. Studies have linked frequent consumption of nuts with heart health and -- despite their high calorie and fat content -- weight control. Stick to a one-ounce serving (approximately 160 calories): That's roughly 28 peanuts, 23 almonds, or 49 pistachios.
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