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The Benefits to Healthy Snacks
Martha Gonzalez, RD, LD, CLC
Blanchard Valley Health System
The average American eats 2.2 snacks per day and can consume up to one-quarter of their total calories from snacks, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). If you are a big snack eater then that can have a big impact on your health. However, snacking on junk food can lead to weight gain and other health problems, but healthy snacks can have great benefits. That is why being cautious of portion size is very important.
Some ways that snacks can be beneficial in a diet are: they can increase nutrient intake, sustain energy levels, help the body recover from exercise and give individuals plenty of healthy options. Certain snacks can help improve the quality of a diet. For example, nutrient dense foods can help one meet recommended intake levels of nutrients and food group servings. The average American is lacking in healthy food groups, such as fruits and vegetables. Some examples of snacks are tuna on whole grain crackers, oatmeal, fresh fruit with yogurt and fresh cut vegetables.
Snacks can be beneficial to people who struggle with blood sugar levels. After eating a snack, blood sugar levels will rise and then decrease. Snacks can prevent ones blood sugar levels from dropping too much between meals. One should look for high fiber and high protein snacks such as carrots with bean dip. This snack is slow to digest which will prevent fluctuation of blood sugar levels. This is very important for people who have diabetes.
Healthier snack options after exercise can help replenish stored energy and speed up muscle recovery. A good post-workout snack would be some sort of carbohydrate and a protein source, such as an apple and cheese stick. Consuming that snack 15 to 30 minutes after exercising will promote the best results. Other snacks that give good recovery and provide essential nutrients are yogurt, a banana and peanut butter on toast. Having healthy snacks handy can help to avoid eating unhealthy snacks. Preparing healthy snacks ahead of time and having them readily available can help one when hunger strikes.
Having those healthy snacks available will prevent people from getting too hungry with junk foods as the only option. Some easy snacks to have on hand are whole fruits, cut vegetables, cottage cheese and whole grain crackers. Even though these snacks are “healthy” it does not mean you can eat an enormous amount of them. It is possible to still gain weight if consuming too much of them. So, monitoring portion size should become a habit when preparing healthy snacks and consuming food in general.
It is evident that consuming healthy snacks are very beneficial to the body in many aspects as stated above. Preparing snacks ahead of time and leaving them in the fridge will save on time when you need a quick pick me up before leaving the house. It can also help you choose the healthier snack over the unhealthy snack. That will lead to consuming more nutrient dense foods throughout the day that can help improve your health. Consuming these healthy snacks can help the body recover after exercise, feel happier and allow you to have more energy throughout the day.