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Medical Association American
People often have mixed feelings about snacks.
Many find that meals alone don't provide the fuel they need throughout
the day, yet they aren't sure how to snack without
"overdoing." The key to choosing the right snack is to
consider your individual needs.
first question is whether you really are hungry at all. Sometimes our
bodies simply need fluid and we mistakenly give food instead. If you
think that might be the case, see what happens when you have a no- or
low-calorie drink as a snack. Try plain or flavored water, unsweetened
iced or hot tea, or tomato-vegetable juice.
you want to limit calories but need more than just a drink, you can
choose from a variety of snacks with less than 100 calories. Many fruits
and vegetables fit the bill, and their bulky fiber helps supply that
"full" feeling as well. When choosing a fruit, try a banana,
pear, apple, one or two kiwi or plums, or a cup of berries or diced
pineapple. While preparing dinner, cook extra servings of vegetables to
save for the next day's snack, possibly with a little low-calorie
dressing for a dip. Another food with real filling power but not many
calories is soup. Many tomato or vegetable soups have less than 100
calories in a six- to eight-ounce serving. Dried versions that just need
hot water or single-serve cans are easy to store anywhere.
a sweet tooth seems to drive your urge for a snack, consider a frozen
fudge or fruit juice bar. A few cinnamon graham cracker squares or
reduced-fat vanilla wafers are also within the low-calorie limit. But to
avoid eating more than you really need, make sure to portion out a
serving rather than eat directly from the package. Popcorn can be a good
solution, depending on how it's prepared. Air-popped and some microwave
popcorns keep calorie levels low, but most regular microwave versions
contain more calories than people realize, especially if an entire
three-serving bag is treated as a single portion.
people who are trying to lose weight, it's often high-calorie snacks
that keep them from reaching their healthy weight. A 200-calorie snack
is low enough for many people in this situation. Foods that provide some
protein, like a small bowl of cereal with milk, a "smoothie"
(yogurt-fruit shake), or a handful of nuts may satisfy longer than those
that are all carbohydrate (juice bars, pretzels, crackers). Portion size
is vital; a "small" cereal portion is about half the size most
adults eat at breakfast.
of snacks as opportunities to fill in the missing nutrition that regular
meals don't provide. If you frequently fall short of reaching
recommended calcium levels, consider yogurt, a little low-fat cheese, or
a calcium-fortified juice. Make vegetables and fruits your snacks of
choice if you tend to eat less than the health experts' recommendations
of five to ten servings a day. Need more fiber? A quick bowl of oatmeal,
or a "trail mix" combination of whole-grain cereal and some
raisins or other dried fruit would be a great choice. If you exercise
late in the afternoon, you'll be able to put more into it if you're not
running low on fuel. Two or three hours before your workout, choose a
high-carbohydrate, low-fat snack like those suggested above and drink
several glasses of water.
if your urge to snack is really due to stress or boredom? Give yourself
the mental break you need without adding the calories you don't. Do a
crossword puzzle, take a walk, or switch tasks. Try to focus on snacks
as a way to fuel your body, not as a recreational break from what you're
Notes is provided by the American
Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.)