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How to beat afternoon snack attacks

September 12, 2000

How to beat afternoon snack attacks

Snacking has become part of the American lifestyle. Whether working at the office, playing outside or running errands, many of us need a mid-afternoon energy boost.

Children need snacks to supplement meals. They have smaller stomachs and need to eat often. Teenagers are growing rapidly and need the extra calories and nutrients that healthy snacks provide. Adults often snack to satisfy midafternoon hunger.

Older adults tend to have smaller appetites. Smaller, snack-like meals may be more appropriate for their lifestyles and energy needs.

A common myth is that snacks get in the way of good nutrition. In truth, carefully selected snacks can promote good health. Choose fresh fruits, raw vegetables or nuts to complement meals. They provide nutrients, such as vitamins C and E and fiber, without adding too much saturated fat or calories to your diet.

Fresh fruits

In addition to being nutritious, fresh fruits are a juicy, refreshing, great-tasting snack. Whether you choose apples, oranges, strawberries, peaches or papayas, you give your body a snack low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. One medium apple or banana, one-half cup of strawberries or melon, or 12 grapes count as one serving of fruit. Before you bite into it, always wash fruit thoroughly, using clean water.

Raw vegetables

Vegetables are a nutritious, low-fat snack that need little or no preparation. Dark green, leafy vegetables and deep yellow ones supply vitamin A in the form of carotenes. Tomatoes, bell peppers and brussels sprouts provide vitamin C. Most vegetables are good sources of fiber. These nutrients are important to the everyday functioning of your body and may lower the risk for certain cancers and heart disease.

One-half cup of chopped, raw, nonleafy vegetables or one cup of raw, leafy vegetables equals a serving. To remove dirt, bacteria and pesticide residues, thoroughly rinse or scrub all raw vegetables under running water before eating them.


Nuts are a great snack for people who need a quick, no-mess, healthy treat. Pistachios and almonds make a distinctive snack because of their unique shapes, flavors and textures.

They're also packed with vitamins and minerals, like vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, copper and zinc. Nuts are energy-dense; they are good sources of protein, carbohydrates and fat.

Nuts are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are considered healthier for your body than the saturated fat commonly found in cookies and chips. Because nuts are energy-dense, it doesn't take long for the calories to start adding up. One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) counts as a serving for most nuts.

Even with a busy lifestyle, you can plan quick, easy, healthy snacks. Just be careful to avoid high-calorie, high-fat snacks that can lead you to skimp on or skip a main meal.

For some healthy snack ideas, send a self-addressed, stamped (33-cent) business-size envelope to Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County Office, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, Md. 21713. Mark the envelope, "Snacks."

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County. Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

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