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Choosing healthy snacks

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For many individuals, snacking throughout the day is part of their daily dietary regimen. However, separating the nutritious healthy snacks from the not so nutritious healthy snacks can present challenges. This is especially true when relying on someone else to make or supply those snacks, such as manufactures of snack foods, an employee cafeteria or vending service.

Snacks are not something that must be consumed, but are useful to get through the time between meals as a way to avoid excessive hunger. Planning out daily snacks is just as important as planning our any of our meals. Snack planning and selection should take into consideration other foods being eaten during the day.

Guidelines for healthy snacks should include:

  • Not snacking out of habit or boredom, if you are not hungry
  • Being part of the daily calorie and nutrient needs
  • 200 calories or less per serving
  • Ideally include 25-30 grams of protein (100-120 calories)
  • Includes 7-10 grams of carbohydrates (28-40 calories)
  • Low fat (less than 3 grams of fat (27 calories)), low sodium (less than 140 mg. of sodium per serving) and low cholesterol (less than 20 milligrams cholesterol and 2 grams saturated fat)

If eating less than 200 calories the protein and fat content would also be reduced proportionately.

Making your own snacks by combining a variety of healthy choices is one strategy that will help to follow these guidelines. Fresh fruits, vegetables, reduced fat/sodium cheese or cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, fat free Greek yogurt, fruit or vegetable based protein shake, whole wheat reduced fat crackers and breads, canned reduced or sodium free tuna of chicken are just a sample of some basis ingredients that can be included in creating a healthy snack.

Most manufactures of “Snack Foods” will not include high levels of protein content because it will reduce their profit margin. They will however include salt, fat and carbohydrates to get just the right combinations to incise the taste buds ... the "bliss point." They also add flavor enhancers to create very distinct flavors that can overwhelm the brain that drives your food cravings to eat even more ... a sensory hedonic phenomenon “sensory-specific satiety”. See additional references below for more information on food cravings on the "Science of Addictive Junk Food. and Brain Imaging Study Confirms Addictive Nature of Processed Carbs.

If they do get the protein in chances are additional fat, salt and sugar will be included to create food cravings. Watch for the use of marketing mischief such as “this snack is healthier" (healthier than what?).

There are many internet references on high protein snacks and recipes … it just takes some planning to put the right combinations of food together, individualized based on food preferences, intolerance, total caloric requirements and daily energy expenditure.

This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical/nutritional/fitness advice. Information presented is subject to change as additional discoveries are made or additional research is published.

Additional resources: Brain Imaging Study Confirms Addictive Nature of Processed Carbs, The Science of Addictive Junk Food

Sources: Brain Imaging Study Confirms Addictive Nature of Processed Carbs, The Science of Addictive Junk Food, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

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