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Small Steps to Eating Healthy Snacks

April 2007

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension of Union County

Many children arrive home from school and go head straight to the refrigerator for a snack. Adults do the same when they come home from work. There is nothing wrong with moderate snacking if a person is very physically active. But, with obesity on the rise, both adults and kids need to watch the number and type of snacks they eat daily. Snacks need to be nutrient dense foods, not high fat, high sugar foods. Snacks are an opportunity for making sure healthy food choices are included each day.

What foods do you reach for when you are hungry for a snack? Most people reach for the closest food at hand. If the cupboard contains chips or cookies on the shelf, they are probably what will be eaten. However, if there are healthier items in the refrigerator, like fresh fruit or raw veggies, then your family will become accustomed to snacking on these foods. The healthiest and simplest choices are low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fruits and raw vegetables, which require little if any preparation. Below are some examples of healthy food choices:

Thirsty! Cold non-fat or 1% low-fat milk, seltzer water with lime, chilled vegetable juice, or mix fruit juice like grape, grapefruit, orange, pineapple, cran-raspberry, with seltzer and ice cubes. Go easy on the juice and use it as a flavoring for the seltzer water.

Smooth! Yogurt, banana, papaya, mango, custard, cottage cheese, "fruit smoothie." ("Fruit smoothie" recipe: Blend one cup of skim milk or vanilla yogurt, three ice cubes, ½ cup of your favorite fresh fruit, and a dash of vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg in a blender.)

Crunchy! Raw vegetables such as asparagus, bell pepper, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, zucchini, and dip into non-fat ranch dip. Try apple wedges and dip in vanilla yogurt or unbuttered popcorn, puffed-rice cakes, or wheat crackers and a tiny bit of peanut butter or low-fat cheese.

Juicy! Fresh fruit such as berries, cantaloupe, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, nectarine, orange, peach, plum, watermelon, pear or use fruit juice and freeze into frozen juice pops.

Fun! Fruit, frozen grapes, frozen bananas or frozen yogurt.

Really hungry! Hard-boiled eggs, granola, sandwich, cereal with low or non-fat milk, bran muffin, peanut butter on crackers or bread, nuts, cheese.

Just make sure you keep your snacks low in fat and high in nutritional value. Remember that adults in the family set the stage for children. Parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and older brothers and sisters are role models for kids and control what foods are purchased and brought into the home.
If adults drink soda and eat high-fat chips, kids will follow those snack choices. Make your snacks healthy foods that are low in fat, salt, or sugar. By making nutritious food choices you will be taking small steps to keep your family healthy.