Snacks are part of a healthful diet

April 26, 2006|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Today, it is common for people to eat several small meals and snacks per day. Often people think snacking between meals can lead to weight gain or that snacking will spoil your dinner. Snacks can be a very important part of the diet, especially for older people. If you snack on healthful foods at the right time, it can be a good way to get extra energy, vitamins and minerals.

Develop good snacking habits by including these foods between meals:

  • snack foods moderate in fat, sugar and salt

  • snacks high in fiber, vitamins and minerals

  • fresh, canned or dried fruit

  • vegetables with dip

  • whole-grain breads, crackers or cereals

  • low-fat, calcium-providing dairy products

  • protein-rich foods, such as nuts, peanut butter or sliced turkey

Keep healthful snacks handy for when you begin to feel hungry. If you are hungry but will not eat a meal for an hour, have a small, low-calorie snack (about 100 to 200 calories) such as:

  • one medium piece of fruit or 1/2 cup canned or cut fruit and a small slice of cheese

  • one handful of pretzels or popcorn and 1/2 cup fruit juice

  • vegetable juice (6 ounces) and one slice of whole-wheat toast

  • cut vegetables with dip

  • one cup low-fat milk and two graham crackers

  • two tablespoons nuts

If your next meal is a few hours away and you feel hungry, choose a larger snack.

Healthful snacking can help you stay more alert and think more clearly. When you find yourself getting tired during the day, avoid desserts such as cake, doughnuts and soft drinks. Instead, reach for a healthful snack.

Children also need healthful snacks during the day. When possible, plan to snack with grandchildren or neighbor children. Kids usually like fruit because it is naturally sweet and colorful. This makes a good snack for you and them. Fruit cut into finger foods, such as sliced bananas, apple slices or grapes, make great snacks. A fruit smoothie made with low-fat milk gives kids needed calcium. If possible, get the kids involved with making snacks; they are more likely to eat them.

Here is a tasty recipe that will keep well. Make and serve it with low-fat milk to neighbors and friends.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

4 cups flaked cereal, crushed to 1 cup

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

Vegetable cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir together crushed cereal, flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda, and set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat together applesauce, peanut butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Stir in cereal mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes 4 1/2 dozen.

Nutrition information per cookie: 90 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1g fiber.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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