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Can snacking be part of a heart-healthy eating plan?

Posted 8/20/2015

Quite simply the answer to that question is “YES!” Snacks can help optimize your energy and mental power, control your weight, reduce the load on your heart, and prevent heartburn. Your snacking habits however should help balance your diet, not add unneeded calories or fat.

"To get all the essential nutrients your body needs in a day, snacking can be very beneficial to your overall health and well being," says Katherine Tallmadge, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "As long as snacks are planned, small and balanced, they can really help fuel your body for activities throughout your day. Snacking helps keep people satisfied throughout the day and they are less likely to binge late at night while watching television or working on the computer," Tallmadge says.

A good rule of thumb to follow when planning snacks is to make sure that each snack you plan contains at least two of the five different food groups. The snack should be something that is easy to fix or buy, and it should be something that you enjoy eating. Some tasty snack ideas are listed below:

  • A medium banana with smooth or crunchy peanut butter
  • A medium apple with skin and one stick of string cheese
  • Two-cups of popcorn, unbuttered, sprinkled with taco seasoning or other low-fat flavoring
  • Ten regular tortilla chips and ΒΌ cup salsa
  • One cup of dry cereal with a cup of one percent milk
  • One cup of low-fat yogurt with a half cup of diced blueberries, strawberries, kiwi and/or peaches and one tablespoon of chopped nuts
  • A cinnamon raisin bagel spread with apple butter
  • One frozen fruit and juice bar

It is especially important for children and teens to snack. Small children need snacks because their stomachs are not large enough to hold all the food they need for growth and energy. Serving smaller portions at meals and arranging planned snack times helps children develop healthy patterns. It can also help reduce “meal stress.” And healthy snacking helps children focus on the task at hand, whether it be learning or playing. Teens need snacks for their increased growth and energy needs, too. Helping teens to plan their own snacks will ensure a healthy base and healthy habits into adulthood.

Email or call Susan Lednicky, Nutritionist with Clark County Cooperative Extension, at 702-257-5548.

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