Here’s how to pick a healthier snack

The number of people who snack between meals and the frequency of our snacking have both increased. With busy lives, 87 percent of us snack throughout the day and consume about a quarter of our calories from sugary beverages and snack foods.

Unfortunately, many of us choose snacks instead of eating three sit-down, healthy meals. Some of us start our day with breakfast-to-go snacks when there isn’t time to prepare a meal before heading out the door. We may continue snacking throughout the morning, at lunch and dinner, and into the evening.

Whether you snack because you’re busy, bored, stressed, want a pick-me-up or believe it’s healthier to eat mini meals throughout the day, make those calories count toward your total for the day and contribute nutritionally to your well-being. Food manufacturers are meeting the consumer’s desire for healthier snacks with snacks that are lower in calories, higher in fiber or antioxidants.

Make a snack plan. Keep whole, fresh foods on hand. Steer clear of packaged items loaded with sugar, fat and salt. Consider these tips for healthy snacking starting in the morning:

Pick protein

One study showed that eating protein early in the day is more inclined to fill you up so you’re more likely to feel fuller longer. Choose dairy foods like yogurt and milk-based drinks over fruit juices and drinks. Other protein-packed snack options are a handful of nuts, a hard-boiled egg or a cheese stick.

Pick a better bar

If you’re fond of breakfast bars, choose one that is higher in fiber and lower in sugar and fat so that you’re not just fueling up on a candy bar in disguise. Check the nutrition label and pass on those with sugar (including syrup, honey and anything ending in “ose”) as the first ingredient.

Plan ahead

Instead of buying a baked treat at the gas station to go with your coffee, bake whole grain scones and muffins to keep in the freezer. Package them individually so they’re ready to pack in your purse, back pack or briefcase in the morning. Making several to keep in the freezer is easy and saves money, too.

Whether snacking out of necessity, for fun or as a planned part of how you eat every day, these tips can help you snack smarter and meet your daily nutrient needs:

Check out to see how to fill your plate with fruits, veggies, grains, protein and dairy for good nutrition.

Use snacks to fill in food groups you’re less likely to eat. Yogurt can substitute for milk. Fresh veggies may be more appealing as a snack than the cooked veggies at dinner to help fill half your plate with fresh produce. Whole grain crackers (read the label and look for “whole”) can help you meet the recommendation to make half your grains whole.

Plan ahead for healthy snacking. Know where you can purchase healthier choices when you’re away from home. Have healthy grab-and-go choices such as fruits, veggies, whole grain crackers and peanut butter on hand. Think outside the box for variety. Snacks like hummus and whole wheat pita bread or veggies with low fat dip are a nice change.

Spend your daily calorie budget wisely. Be aware of recommended portion sizes. If portions are large, share it with someone else or save some for later. If you have difficulty controlling the size of portions you eat, don’t eat from packages that contain multiple servings. Choose a whole piece of fruit or a packaged snack pack to control portions.

Source: Colorado Cooperative Extension


Whole Wheat Blueberry Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour

¼ cup packed brown sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup cold butter

1 ¾ cups 1% buttermilk

1 ½ cups fresh blueberries

1 tablespoon sugar

In a large bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk just until moistened. Stir in blueberries. Turn onto a floured surface, gently knead 10 times.

Transfer dough to a baking sheet coated with nonstick spray. Pat into a 9 inch circle. Cut into 12 wedges, but do not separate. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Multigrain Muffins

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup cornmeal

½ cup quick cooking oats

¼ cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup skim milk

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup raisins

In a bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients. In another bowl, combine the egg, milk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in walnuts and raisins.

Coat muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. Fill 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Yield: 12 muffins

Sandra R. Cain is the Extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in Bladen County.
Here’s how to pick a healthier snack
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