Healthy Snacks for the Family

By Ruthy Watson, PhD, MSPH
Adjunct Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences

Eating healthy can be a challenge, but it must be a priority if you wish to see changes in your health and body. Choosing healthy snacks is the key to preventing overeating and staying on track with your nutritional goals. It is also a way to keep your body fueled consistently throughout the day.

Let’s start with fruit. All fruit in its natural state is healthy, and dried fruits are healthy as well. Though fruit has sugar, it is natural sugar—not added or processed— therefore a great choice for snacking. Some fruits contain fiber that is necessary for keeping cholesterol levels in check (LDL low and HDL high). Fruits are also effective sources of potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A and C.  All fruits are recommended for snacking but here is a list of a few that are preferred:

 

 

  • Apples (with skin on)
  • Pears (with skin on)
  • Bananas
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Dried plums (prunes)
  • Dried apricots
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Oranges
  • Mango

Fresh vegetables are also good snack options. They can be eaten alone or with a healthy dip, and, just like fruit, vegetables are sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Here is a list of recommended vegetables:

  • Broccoli flowerets
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Baby carrots or carrot sticks
  • Grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Sliced zucchini or yellow squash
  • Sliced green, red, or yellow pepper

Nuts are good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, zinc, and protein. Examples of healthy types of nuts include the following:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peanuts/peanut butter
  • Almonds/almond butter
  • Walnuts

Next up is dairy. Dairy includes many of people’s favorite foods and, therefore, it is food they may already eat on a regular basis. This list of dairy suggestions includes some nondairy options that have been fortified with calcium and vitamin D:

  • Skim milk (8 oz. glass)
  • Yogurt (8 oz. glass)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Swiss cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese (low fat)
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Almond milk
  • Rice milk

Last on the list are grains/complex carbohydrate snacking options. The key to healthy carbohydrate consumption is portion size, or knowing when to stop. For example, if you are eating crackers, stick with three to five; if you are eating cookies or granola bars, stick with one or two. Be sure to read the ingredient list to stay away from hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup in processing. Some healthy options for grains/complex carbohydrates include the following:

  • Triscuit brand crackers (or any whole wheat cracker)
  • Whole wheat tortilla or pita chips
  • Granola bars
  • Graham crackers (1–2 whole crackers)

Beverages can be loaded with empty calories, so it is best to stay away from the coffee drinks you can purchase at specialty coffee shops or fast food restaurants.  If you must have this type of drink, narrow your consumption down to once per week and you will notice the difference not only in your waistline but also in your pocket. Another option is to drink unsweetened iced tea drinks; you can add your preferred sweetener, lemon, or lime. And, of course, there is always water. Mineral water is okay on occasion but it is best to get in the habit—and stick with the habit—of drinking clear water. You can always spruce up water with a little bit of fruit juice or a couple slices of lemon, lime, orange, or even pineapple.

What about some snacking combinations? The idea here is to eat just enough to take the edge off your hunger. Ideally, your snack should be no more than 200 calories. Here are some ideas for snacking combinations. Some of these are pretty common but remember that you can use your imagination for other healthy snaking combinations:

  • Cold cereal (1 cup) and skim, almond, or rice milk (no sugary cereals, instead go for fiber-loaded cereals like shredded wheat or granola)
  • Bananas and peanut butter (1/2–1 tablespoon of peanut butter)
  • Apples and peanut butter (1/2–1 tablespoon of peanut butter)
  • Graham crackers and yogurt
  • Granola bar and yogurt
  • Yogurt and ginger snaps or graham crackers (2–3)
  • Peanut butter on whole wheat bread (1 slice of bread; 1/2–1 tablespoon of peanut butter)
  • Sliced turkey and cheese on whole wheat bread (1 slice of bread)
  • Peanut butter and crackers (1/2–1 tablespoon of peanut butter)
  • Almond butter and crackers (1/2-1 tablespoon of almond butter)
  • Celery and peanut butter (1/2–1 tablespoon of peanut butter)
  • Multigrain tortilla chips and salsa or hummus

Keep in mind that eating healthy begins at home and that it is never too late to start. Make healthy snacking an interesting family project so that everyone gets into the habit of selecting and making healthy choices. Be creative but also remember that it is a snack—just enough to take the edge off until your next meal. Happy snacking!


http://www.nancysilva.com/images/photo_nancy2.jpgRuthy Watson, PhD, MSPH

Ruthy Watson is an adjunct professor with Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Chatham University and both her Master of Science in Public Health, and her Doctorate in Public Health and Community Health Promotion from Walden University. In addition, Dr. Watson is president and founder of Ruthy Watson’s Innovative Wellness Consulting, Inc., a health and wellness promotion organization that specializes in community programs and activities to encourage healthy living and disease prevention in South Florida. Dr. Watson has taught in traditional classroom settings and online courses in wellness education with Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

another brian hill design