To Your Health
October, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 10)
By Sarah Ceccarelli
Keeping up with a fast-paced lifestyle doesn't mean a healthy diet has to suffer. People have grown more and more comfortable eating at their desks, in their cars or on the bus in order to stay on schedule. But while eating on the go can mean schedules are maintained, it can also mean nutrition is compromised. When hunger strikes, it's easy to grab the first thing you see or the fastest food available, but this type of eating does add up. Even though time (or lack thereof!) is a constant issue for many people, it doesn't mean food has to be, too. With a little planning, a healthy diet can be maintained by consistently making smart decisions and choosing healthy snacks throughout the day. Snacking should be viewed as an opportunity to incorporate positive nutrition into your diet, and can help balance blood sugar levels, which in turn prevents cravings and overeating during the day and at mealtime.
The Benefits of Healthy Snacking
Do you think of snacking as an occasional treat? By eating smaller, more frequent portions of good-for-you snacks throughout the day, you can actually provide more opportunities to eat the important nutrients your body needs. Snacking well can help you consume the daily levels of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fiber, protein and micronutrients recommended by USDA's MyPyramid (www.mypyramid.com). For example, if you snack on a banana between breakfast and lunch and a whole-grain granola bar later in the afternoon, you're on your way to meeting your fruit and whole-grain recommendations for the day.
Snacking can also help with portion control. By eating small amounts of food during the day, you'll be able to better listen to your body's needs and wants. Smart, controlled snacking teaches us how satisfying a small portion can be, so that when meal time comes, you can better gauge how much your body actually needs instead of how much your eyes think you want. Smaller portions of smart snacks also help maintain energy levels because your metabolism and mood are on less of a roller coaster and more able to stay balanced.
How Do I Become a Healthy Snacker?
Snacking is only beneficial if the food you are snacking on has the vital nutrients your body needs. It doesn't take much time or energy to learn how to select and find foods that are delicious and healthy snacks. Look for a combination of foods that provide a balance of complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber and healthy fats. Try to avoid snacks high in trans fat, high-fructose corn syrup and processed sugar. Don't forget to look for the positive things such as whole grains, fiber, protein, fruits, nuts, seeds, omega-3s and other natural ingredients, which are all nutritious attributes of a good-for-you snack. Most importantly, always read labels and look for foods that are minimally processed and free of highly refined sweeteners and artificial ingredients. If you can't easily understand or pronounce the ingredient name, there's a good chance it's not natural. A great snack for the morning or afternoon is plain organic yogurt with all-natural granola. Some yogurts have probiotics that help balance your digestive tract, and some granolas are loaded with whole grains, fruits and nuts.