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Snack Attacks
Did You Know That...
  • Munching on just one carrot will meet your vitamin A needs for the entire day?
  • Preschoolers get nearly one third of their energy from snacks?
  • Snacking is on the rise: 75 percent of us eat at least one snack a day?
  • A planned snack can help prevent overeating?
  • Television watching tends to increase snacking--particularly on high-fat, high-calorie "goodies"?
Snacking can help or hurt a healthful diet. The difference depends on what you choose and how much you eat. Whether you like to munch, nibble, or simply quench the mid-afternoon "hungries," you can make snacking work for you. It just takes a little planning.
Benefits Of Snacking
Snacks can give you an energy boost to help fuel your body between meals. Your body uses up the carbohydrate stores in your liver (which help maintain a normal level of blood sugar) in 4 to 6 hours. You need food to replace them.

Many people can benefit from eating snacks. Growing children with tiny appetites may not be able to fulfill their energy needs with only three meals a day. Snacks can provide what may be missing from their meals.

Athletes of all ages have increased energy demands. They especially need energy in the form of carbohydrates, which help power exercising muscles. Snacks such as sandwiches, bread, buns, fruit and raw vegetable can help give athletes the additional energy they need.
Teenagers are well known for their snack attacks and for good reason. They also have high energy and nutrient needs to support their growing bodies. Carefully chosen snacks can help fuel their growth.

Carrying a baby places additional nutrient and energy demands on the mother. Selective snacking can help pregnant women meet their extra nutrition needs. Small, frequent snacks can be especially helpful for women who have morning sickness or who always feel full.

Older adults who can eat only small portions of food at a time may find it easier to maintain their health by eating snacks to supplement their meals.

Snacks can offer nutritional advantages, but they also can become liabilities, depending on the types and quantities of food they contain. Mindless nibbling can lead to trouble in the form of unwanted calories. Some snacks--such as chips, chocolate, and shakes--can add a fat burden to the diet. And high-fat diets are clearly linked with such chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Removing The Guilt: Snacking Myths
Despite the benefits that snacking can offer, many people think of snacks as something extra they should not eat. Here are five myths worth challenging:

Myth - Snacks are fattening.
Fact - Eating a snack during a long stretch between meals can take the edge off hunger, which might lead to overeating otherwise. Of course, specific snack food choices will make a difference.

Myth - Snacks spoil your appetite for meals.
Fact - Eating a small amount of food--maybe an apple or half of a turkey sandwich--2 to 3 hours before a meal will not spoil an appetite. But it may keep you from becoming ravenously hungry. By eating a snack, you can be more in control of your food choices and less inclined to overeat at your next meal.

Myth - Snacking causes cavities.
Fact - While snacks expose the teeth to food (and decay-producing bacteria) more often, choosing foods that are not sticky and brushing your teeth afterward help prevent cavities. Some foods such as cheese have been found to have properties that prevent cavity formation.

Myth - Snacking is the same as eating junk food.
Fact – Snacking does not have to equate junk food, choosing better alternatives can help fill in the gaps in meals to complete a healthful diet.

Myth - Healthful snacking means I can never eat potato chips again.
Fact - It's possible to eat fun foods and still follow a diet that is low in fat, but it requires a little planning. If you have a high fat snack, you need to balance that out with lower-fat choices at other meals.

One snack, one meal, or one day of eating cannot make or break your health. It is what you eat consistently over time that counts.
Healthy Bites: Nutritious Notables
By choosing your snacks wisely, you can take a sizable step toward meeting your nutrition needs. Here are some snacks that are particularly nutrient-rich:

Food...Percentage Of Daily Nutrient Requirement*
  • 1/2 cup of 100% orange juice...more than 100 percent of vitamin C
  • 1 smal carrot...100 percent of vitamin A
  • 1 cup of lentil soup...33 percent of iron
  • 1 cup nonfat yogurt...33 percent of calcium
  • 1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese...33 percent of protein
  • 1 medium banana...25 percent of potassium
  • 1 whole-wheat bagel...20 percent of thiamin
* Based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance.
Making The Most Of A Snack Attack
Follow these guidelines to help make snacking work for your health:
  • Plan ahead so that you have the desired food at hand when you need it. You don't want to be forced to choose from the limited selections in a corner store, or a randomly stocked refrigerator.
  • Instead of munching absent-mindedly, make snacking a conscious activity. Ideally, this means eating without doing anything else at the same time (for example, watching TV). Otherwise, you can easily overeat without realizing it.
  • Choose lower-fat snacks:
Instead of Try...
Potato chips Pretzels
Ice cream Low fat frozen yogurt
Milkshake Fruit smoothie
Ice cream bar Frozen juice bar
Butter cookie Arrowroot cookie
Pound cake Bran muffin
Sour cream-based dip Salsa
Keep the above tips in mind that next time you reach for a snack. Happy Snacking!
Adapted from the American Dietetic Association (ADA) brochure "Snack Attacks are OK"

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