Snack right in 2018

Published 7:29 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Snacking is an everyday part of life for most of us. It definitely is for me. But what kind of snacks are you eating? Snacking can be good for you if it is done the right way.

It is easy to get excess calories from unhealthful snacks such as chips, cookies, sweetened beverages, donuts or candy. These foods are called discretionary calories (or empty calories) because they provide our bodies with minimal vitamins and minerals. They also tend to be higher in calories, fat, sodium and added sugars. Excess calories from snacks can lead to weight gain or prevent weight loss if you are trying to lose weight.

Adding snacks to your meal plan can be a great way to add many essential vitamins and minerals to your diet daily. Choosing the right snacks and portion size is key in optimizing your nutrient intake as well as eliminating discretionary calories in your diet. When you substitute a high-calorie snack with a lower-calorie snack, it will reduce your total calorie intake and can promote weight loss. Snacks can provide an energy boost and hold you over until it is time to eat again. This can help prevent overeating at the next meal. Avoid mindless eating or eating when you are bored. Only eat a snack when you are hungry!

To snack right, you must plan snacks ahead of time. Take a few minutes to plan ahead and have healthy snacks available at home and work. It is easier to snack right when you keep healthy snacks prepped and ready to eat. It is best to combine foods from two or more of the following food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein. Eat snacks that are lower in fat, sodium and added sugars. Switch up your food groups and vary foods within each food group. This will provide your body with a wider variety of vitamins and minerals.

A best practice may be to keep out or limit unhealthy snacks in the kitchen. We are more tempted to reach for a candy bar or bag of chips because it is convenient, especially when there are no other options available.

Below are examples of healthy snacks to choose:

  • 6 ounces of low-fat yogurt
  • Low-fat cheese stick or string cheese
  • 1 ounce of low-fat cheese with 4-5 whole-grain crackers
  • 1 hard-boiled egg and 1 small piece of fruit or ½ cup berries
  • Raw sliced vegetables (cucumbers, celery, carrots, zucchini) with ¼ cup hummus or 2 tablespoons of low-fat dressing; Make a delicious dip for sliced raw vegetables. Mix together 1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt, 5 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, ¼ cup pesto, and salt and pepper to taste (optional). Makes about 8 servings, ¼ cup per serving.
  • ¼ cup unsalted nuts or seeds
  • 1 slice whole wheat toast or small whole-grain bagel topped with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese. Add a few slices of green apple!
  • 3 cups low-fat unsalted popcorn
  • Apple, banana or pear with ¼ cup vanilla yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese for dipping or spread on 1 tablespoon of your favorite nut butter.
  • In a blender, combine 1 cup of no-sugar-added frozen berries and 1 cup low fat milk or dairy-free milk for a delicious smoothie.
  • Mash up an avocado and spread 2 tablespoons on a piece of whole-grain toast and top with tomato slices or eat with a handful of tortilla chips.

Remember snacking right can taste good! It isn’t necessary to eat foods that you don’t like. There are a wide variety of foods to choose from in all of the recommended food groups. Choose your favorite healthy foods for a more enjoyable snack or be adventurous and try a new food. All foods can fit in your meal plan! Snack right most days and allow yourself small portions of unhealthful snacks 2-3 times per week. So let’s start this New Year out right with healthy snacking!

Heather Eads, RD, LDN, is a clinical dietitian at Vidant Beaufort Hospital, and can be reached at or 252-948-4937.