The <i>Real</i> Skinny on Snacking

Snacking is a very healthy habit; in my experience, people who lose weight and keep it off snack once or twice a day.
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I review food logs for my patients and magazines, and one very common thing I've seen is most people do not know the difference between a treat and a snack. A treat is something that is not filling and has no nutrition, whereas a snack is something that is filling and gives you vitamins and minerals. For example, a treat is a 100-calorie pack of Oreos or low-fat fudge pop, whereas a snack is celery with peanut butter.

Snacking is a very healthy habit; in my experience, people who lose weight and keep it off snack once or twice a day. A snack is a bridge between meals... It helps you get to the next meal with a less ravenous hunger so you are better able to control your food choices and portions at mealtime. On the other hand, treats taste good for the moment but don't have the staying power to keep your hunger at bay or energy levels steady. Treats can't control your appetite and don't contribute to your overall wellbeing, so in the end... Treats are something we need to limit (even if they seem innocent because they are only 100 calories or low-fat or low-sugar).

Bottom Line: Snack Daily, Treat Occasionally.

Many patients and magazines ask me to come up with clever, creative and delicious snack ideas, but snacks shouldn't be glamorous, nor should they be something we look so forward to eating. Snacks should just be a tide-me-over until I can get to a meal I will enjoy. Think of them as just a meal-to-meal bridge. It tends to be the opposite in our diet-obsessed culture -- many people load up on low-calorie, boring "diet" food at meals, which isn't satisfying, and then scavenge for delicious and exciting treats all afternoon and evening. Consider this the new norm: Enjoy creativity and variety at meals, but snack simply on filling and nutritious food.

Simple Snack Guidelines:
  • Between 100-200 calories
  • Contain the powerful combination of produce and protein
  • Eaten only once or twice a day when it is most needed/hungriest time of day
  • Limited in variety -- too many choices at snack time can lead to overeating
My Top Ten Snack List
Each is about 150 calories and contains produce plus protein:
  1. Apple (small) and almonds (10)
  2. Celery (3 stalks) and peanut butter (1.5 tablespoons)
  3. Peaches (1/2 cup canned in juice) and low-fat cottage cheese (1/2 cup)
  4. Grapes (half a cup) and soynuts (1/4 cup)
  5. Carrots (1 cup) and hummus (4 tablespoons)
  6. Melon (3/4 cup) and cheese (1-ounce wedge)
  7. Berries (1/2 cup) and low-fat plain yogurt (6 ounces)
  8. Cucumber (1 cup) and tuna (3 ounces with 1 tablespoon light mayo)
  9. Tomato juice (1 cup low-sodium) and pistachios (30)
  10. Pear (small) and string cheese (1)

For more by Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD, LDN, click here.

For more on diet and nutrition, click here.

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