Most popular snacks today are more than a quick bite - they're a mini-meal with too many kilojoules and too much fat and sugar (like doughnuts, muffins, chocolate bars and biscuits) or fat and salt (potato crisps, pizza, fries or savoury crackers).
Take doughnuts. At 20 grams of fat and over 2000 kilojoules (500 calories), 2 cinnamon doughnuts pile on one-third of the day's recommended intake of fat and kilojoules for the average sedentary woman.
And most of that fat is the 'bad' saturated fat, the type that clogs arteries and thickens your waistline. A large Danish pastry or a bucket of hot chips does the same.
Snacking's not bad
Snacking itself is not all bad. Snacks can be helpful to spread the total intake over a day, particularly for 3 groups:
1. Children, with their small stomach capacity, eat better with snacks and research bears this out - some 80 to 90 per cent of children snack between meals. If your child can't sit still for long enough to eat a full dinner, small snacks keep them topped up - as long as they're nutritious. So a tub of yoghurt tops up their calcium, a mandarin tops up their vitamin C and so on.
2. People with diabetes can keep their blood sugar steady if they spread their 'food load' into five or six smallish meals. They may start with cereal and fruit, then at 10.30am snack on a slice of toast with cheese, then have a sandwich at 1pm, a nut bar in the afternoon and so on.
3. Dieters can burn more fat and shrink their stomach size by switching to five or six mini-meals with snacks. The theory is that your stomach gets used to feeling full after a modest portion - not a huge one.
Choice magazine on snacks
When Choice magazine surveyed around 100 lunch snacks for kids in 2005, they found that only one in four could be called "nutritious". They set four criteria for snacks to be classified as "healthy" which you can use as a guide to judge a muesli bar, muffin or cracker biscuit snack that claims to be "good for you". They had to have less than:
• 600 kilojoules (150 calories)
• 5 g saturated fat
• 15 g of sugar
• 200mg of sodium.
Healthy snack guide
Here are some suggestions for healthy snacks. Print it out and post it on the fridge to remind yourself of your choice without losing out on nutrition.
• Fresh fruit (pack grapes, rockmelon cubes or cherries into small plastic containers)
• Canned fruit
• Fruit snack packs such as those packed in clear plastic
• Sultana boxes
• Dried fruit and nut packs (not for kids under three due to the risk of choking)
• Frozen orange quarters or frozen grapes.
• Yoghurt - fruit, plain or frozen
• Cheese wedge or slice, plain or with vita-weet, water crackers or crispbread
• Cheese on toast
• Banana or berry smoothie.
• Handful (30-50g) of mixed nuts, preferably unsalted
• Nut and dried fruit trail mix
• Nut bars (like a muesli bar but look for one made up mainly of nuts, rather than cereal).
• Fresh bread spread with peanut butter, honey or jam
• Toasted muffin with cheese
• Raisin loaf
• Crackers spread with peanut butter or cream cheese.
• Bowl of cereal with milk and banana (great for hungry teens)
• Mini-wheats eaten dry as a snack
• Cereal bar or cereal-nut bar.
About The Author
Catherine Saxelby is a dietician and nutritionist who writes articles on health and well being for Australian health insurance provider ahm. She regularly provides healthy eating and nutrition advice for people looking for health insurance and health cover.To know more about,visit our site www.ahm.com.au/
The author invites you to visit: http://www.ahm.com.au
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