The Smarter Way to Snack

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What You Should Eat

To get snacking back on track, we've got to shift our perception of what constitutes a snack. For starters, nutrition experts advise choosing snacks that are between 100 and 150 calories apiece. Active folks can push it to 200 calories, but no one needs the 1,000-plus calorie behemoths peddled by fast-food joints.


Next, we need to think of snacks not as treats, but as ways to get those servings of fruits, vegetables, and dairy we skip at regular meals. So if you missed fruit at breakfast, snack on a pear later. You can make fruits and vegetables more tempting by combining them with other foods -- an apple with a tablespoon of cashew butter (available in health-food stores) or veggie slices with dip. Adding a small flavor hit or varying the texture of a garden-variety snack can make it taste better and feel more satisfying. Another tip: Mix carbs with protein, or a little fat with some fiber, to give a simple snack more fill power. Unlike high-carb snacks that are digested quickly, prompting the swings in blood sugar that stoke hunger, combo snacks are digested more slowly, holding blood sugar levels steady so you're far less likely to raid the vending machine.

Finally, make healthy snacking easy by keeping good choices at hand. Carry energy bars in your bag or keep fruit and low-fat string cheese at your office. "The most powerful law of psychology is the law of least effort," says David Levitsky, PhD, professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. "If it's easier to pop some fruit or veggies into your mouth than it is to trudge down to the vending machine for candy, then you're more likely to snack smartly."


Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, March 2004.


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