You are what you eat, so snack smart

Snacking. It sounds like a bad word, doesn’t it? Like something you should feel guilty about, and not do. But, it is not the snacking, of course — it’s the snack. And it’s all about your options.

Frozen yogurt may have less fat than ice cream, but it can have just as much sugar and sometimes even more! Granola has a reputation for being a healthy snack, but it could be loaded with sugar and fat. I guess the oats are what people think makes it OK. 

Pretzels, while low in calories and fat, are also typically covered in coarse salt, and white flour has never been known as health food. That sodium (salt) contributes to increased blood pressure and causes water retention which, especially for those with high blood pressure, is not a healthy choice at all.

When choosing your tasty snacks in between meals, here’s what to remember so you don’t blow your caloric budget on junk and you actually fuel your body with nutrients. 

Many nutritional experts suggest that rather than sitting down to three full meals a day, a wiser option is to eat five or six smaller meals throughout the day to keep your brain and body fueled and your blood sugar level. This leads to fat reduction, stabilized energy and curbs the urge to binge because you’re over hungry.

We’ve known for years we need to get more fiber in our diets (30 grams/day) because dietary fiber is good for our digestive systems, managing blood sugar, supporting heart health and maintaining a healthy weight. So obviously it’s a good idea to work high fiber snacks into your day. 

Foods with a good amount of fiber are whole grain products, nutritional supplements especially formulated for increasing dietary fiber, and solid fruit such as apples, pears, berries and melons.

Too much sugar you might say. Are you aware that an apple only has 25 grams of fructose? This is not a high glycemic food, because apples also have a significant amount of soluble fiber which offsets the fructose and stabilizes the blood sugar and promotes healthy bacteria in your colon.

An apple has between 3 and 4 grams of fiber depending on its size. In order to make your snack even more nutritious and lower the glycemic index you could partner that apple with some low-fat, organic cheese or hummus and have a perfect little meal that will give you energy for hours.

It’s important to find the perfect balance with low-calorie, low-fat and low-sugar snacks. Keeping your caloric intake down is important in order to stay lean, or to get lean and stay healthy. What’s more, the calories you do eat shouldn’t be empty ones.

There are all kinds of processed snacks at the grocery store or variety store that are low in calories, and may even be fat-free. Though that may be, they are also high in refined carbohydrates, with little protein or nutritional value. 

So how to get good healthy snacks without spending all day in the kitchen slicing cucumbers and carrot sticks?

A great all-around snack solution is fibrous fruits. They wash up fast and transport easily too. Cherries, blueberries and a number of other fruits, including apples, pears and apple bananas, are low in calories, fat free and loaded with vitamins. 

Protein sources, such as an organic hard-boiled egg, yogurt and cottage cheese, or low-fat stick cheese, are perfect complements to fruit.

Veggies are great snack foods too, but they may just take a little more time to prepare, as you might have to wash them and either slice them up or peel them. 

No one can convince me that taking along an apple or a pear in your car is not fast, convenient and easy — the perfect fast food with great nutrition and no guilt! Be a grazer and eat well all day long! Aloha!

Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.

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