4 ways to snack healthy

Staff Sgt. David R. Fernandez
435th Aerospace Medical Squadron

***image1***Whenever we think about the term “snacks” we often reflect the image of sugary sweets and fizzing drinks that fill many vending machines and populate many of our corridors and offices. “Snack” has become a term we have misinterpreted but should really be embraced and used to our advantage. Stop falling for the commercial propaganda and start thinking smartly about the foods you consume. Here are four must-have snack ideas that will help you curb your hunger in between meals and cost you little as far as total calories.

Emphasizing nutrient density and low calories, these snacks pack more bang for the buck.

***image2***Bananas: nutritious and available year-round.  You can eat them as is, toss them in your breakfast cereal, or simply blend bananas with low-fat milk to make a delicious smoothie.  This is a great grab-and-go snack that happens to be a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C and fiber as well as manganese.  In addition, a seven- inch banana provides approximately 460 milligrams of potassium, making it a heart-friendly health snack.

Yogurt: versatile and healthy.  It can be enjoyed on its own, used as a fruit dip or mixed as a sauce or dressing.  Yogurt provides protein, calcium and potassium; and some may also contain active live bacterial cultures (probiotics).  Studies show probiotics improve gastro-intestinal health and may enhance immune functions. Unfortunately, not all yogurts contain probiotics. L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus and L. acidophilus are the most common bacterial strains added in yogurt. So, look for these bacteria on the ingredient list.  Also, check the label and look for the words “live cultures” or “active cultures.”  Avoid yogurt that says “heat-treated after culturing” on the label.

***image4***Walnuts: one of the best plant sources of protein and makes a great snack. They are rich in fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium.  It’s also high in the good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (omega 3), which have all been shown to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Seven nuts have a role in heart disease prevention: almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. However, nuts are high in calories, so instead of simply adding nuts to your diet, eat them in replacement of foods that are high in saturated fats such as meat and limit your intake to one to two ounces per day.

Popcorn: convenient and tasty.  A standard three-cup serving of air-popped popcorn contains just 93 calories and less than 1.5 grams of fat.  They are considered whole grains, which have some valuable antioxidants not found in fruits and vegetables.  They contain B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium and fiber.  It is recommended all adults eat half their grains as whole grains, which is three to five ounces of whole grains a day.  If you prefer microwave popcorn, choose the plain one and avoid the “buttery” popcorn that may be loaded with calories, sugar and trans fat.

For more information on healthy food choices, weight maintenance and loss, contact the Health and Wellness Center.