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Allen Center for Nutrition Offers Tips to Make the Most of Munchies
Allentown, PA (March 10, 2005) - According to the Snack Food Association, Americans spend more than $32 billion annually to consume 6.4 billion pounds of snack foods including potato chips, tortilla chips, popcorn, pretzels, snack nuts, meat snacks, pork rinds, cheese puffs, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, snack crackers, cookies and snack bars. As a result, the American waistline is rapidly expanding.
Jane Ziegler, assistant professor at the Allen Center for Nutrition at Cedar Crest College, says that healthier snack alternatives do exist, and with some minor dietary alterations, snack junkies can satisfy their between-meal cravings without packing on the pounds.
“The trick to becoming a smart snacker is to make sure the foods are doing something more for the body than just satisfying a craving,” says Ziegler. “A lot of the snacks that are the most convenient have very little or no nutritional value, but with a little bit of planning, you can have a variety of foods at your fingertips that can actually make snacks a beneficial part of your daily diet.”
The urge to snack itself can come from a variety of sources besides being truly hungry. Other reasons include boredom, comfort, habit or even seeing food on the television. But some studies have shown that, when the urge to snack strikes, nutrient dense foods (fruits, milk, vegetable, grains, meats) are more satiating than calorically dense foods (candy, cake, chips, pretzels, soda).
In conjunction with National Nutrition Month, a nutrition education campaign sponsored by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) every March that is designed to focus attention on making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits, the Allen Center for Nutrition offers these tips to help get the most out of snacking:
Keep it handy
If you know you get the urge to snack throughout the day, keeping healthier foods at hand - in a desk drawer or the fridge - will discourage going elsewhere to find a snack that might turn out to be high in fat and calories. “A smarter choice would be to spread a little natural peanut butter on whole-grain crackers. Peanut butter is higher in calories but it has the added bonus of providing much-needed protein and healthy mono-unsaturated fats,” says Ziegler.
Serve it up single
There are actually a number of nutritious snacks that come pre-packaged in single servings and are easy to keep at the office or in the kitchen. Things like single-serving fruit cups, yogurt and individually wrapped cheese sticks are all smart choices. Just be sure to take note of the serving size on anything pre-packaged from the grocery store.
“ Setting aside a little bit of time to prepare your snacks for the week is a great way to ensure you’re snacking on the right foods,” says Ziegler. Dividing chopped vegetables or dried fruits and nuts into single servings makes healthy snacking just as easy and convenient as pressing the vending machine button for a candy bar. “If you have kids, invite them to help out during this time too. Not only will it familiarize them with healthy portion sizes and nutritious foods, but it’s also a way to spend a little time with them each week doing something fun.”
Aim for nine
Everyone should aim for nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day as part of a well-balanced diet. Substituting fruits and vegetables for cookies or candy during snack breaks will not only provide essential nutrients to the body, but will also boost energy, help keep weight down and help curb appetites during larger daily meals.
Read the label
If there is no other choice but the vending machine, opt for a snack that is low in calories and contains no trans fat. Some snacks like granola bars may appear to be a healthier choice, but the chewy varieties often contain trans fats. “Soon all food labels will list how much trans fat they contain, but many already do,” says Ziegler. “Choosing pretzels won’t give you the nutritional benefits of something like yogurt or fruit, but they are lower in fat than a bag of potato chips or candy.”
Recipe: Smartly Sweet Cereal Bars
“This recipe is a smart alternative to rice krispie treats since it is relatively low in calories and packs a nutritional punch by providing protein, calcium, vitamin d and fiber,” says Ziegler. “This is a great, customizable recipe that kids can help with and the bars can be cut and wrapped individually for the week.”
¼ cup trans fat free margarine
32 large or 3 cups miniature marshmallows (One 10.5 oz. bag)
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup nonfat dry milk
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
1 cup chopped nuts (such as almonds)
4 cups unsweetened oat or rice dry cereal (such as Cheerios)
Coat a 9x9x2 inch square baking pan with cooking spray. In a large saucepan, melt margarine and marshmallows over low heat, stirring constantly. Stir in peanut butter until melted. Stir in dry milk. Fold in dried fruit, nuts and cereal, stirring until evenly coated. With buttered hands, pat into pan. Cool and cut into bars.
Makes 16 bars. Serving size: 1 bar (186 calories)
About the Allen Center for Nutrition
In 1992, the Allen Center for Nutrition at Cedar Crest College launched a new era of nutrition education in the Lehigh Valley. The state-of-the-art nutrition food laboratory in the Miller Family Building is the centerpiece of a cutting-edge nutrition degree program. Cedar Crest has the only American Dietetic Association (ADA)-approved, four-year, nutrition degree program in the region. The Allen Center for Nutrition is recognized as a quality nutrition resource in the northeast. Its community outreach programs have touched thousands of people of all ages and have brought national figures in the world of health to campus including Jane Brody and Dr. Dean Ornish.