Are you a snacker? A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study of 5,000 people reported in Cooking Light concludes that people who snack (in addition to eating three meals a day) enjoy better nutrition than those who do not snack.
According to researchers, 60 percent of Americans snack, but most do not snack wisely. Five insights emerged from the NHANES study that can aid in weight loss and improved nutrition:
- Pay attention to portion size. The size of the snack influences how much is eaten.
- Use snacking to prevent overeating or bingeing later.
- Include protein. A snack with protein staves off hunger longer than one with carbohydrates.
- Eat, rather than drink, your snack. Solid food reduces appetite longer than a liquid snack.
- Monitor calories. Low-fat snacks aren’t calorie free so they need to be eaten in moderation.
Food manufacturers are responding to the increasing demand for snack foods by packaging dozens of new 100-calorie products. To ensure that your snacks are nutritionally sound and to save money, consider these options from your own kitchen:
- A bowl of fat-free popcorn
- A small portion (1/2 cup) of pitted olives
- A cup of carrot sticks or cauliflower buds dipped in hummus
- A small portion (1/2 cup) of fat-free or reduced-fat cottage cheese
- An apple, a banana or other fruit
- A small portion (1/2 slice) of bread spread with peanut butter
- A hard-boiled egg
- A small carton of reduced-fat, unsugared yogurt
If you are disinclined to snack, you needn’t feel pressured to start. But if you are inclined to nibble now and then, use these recommendations so you can enjoy guilt-free snacks.