Stock up on skinny: Snack your way to better health

Unfortunately, this has often led to cravings that were satisfied, albeit temporarily, with a “snack.”


There is good news on the snack food front. It is possible to not fall victim to the “snack attack” by choosing ones that are beneficial because of their nutritional content and ability to help improve your overall health.


It is clear that some modifications are crucial when trying to achieve specific fitness and nutrition goals.


Your goal could be to lose weight, gain weight or maintain a current weight. Changes can be as slight as increasing water intake and choosing apple sticks instead of fries with lunch (at least sometimes), or it could be as drastic as eliminating a specific ingredient (e.g. gluten) from your diet.


Thankfully, most long-term successful meal plans encourage healthy between-meal noshes.


For Angela Mack, a retired Florida Department of Children and Families supervisor, it is important that she not allow the additional time in her schedule to lead to poor food choices and a sedentary lifestyle.


For this reason, she works with a trainer and monitors her food intake.


“I try to eat two to three snacks a day, usually mid-morning and mid-afternoon. I try not to wait until I crave a snack but have something that is simple and convenient with me at all times,” Mack says.




We have all rolled our eyes when witnessing a co-worker order a double-cheeseburger (“extra mayo and no lettuce, please”), a mammoth-size order of fries and a Diet Coke — emphasis on the “diet.” We are not puzzled when she admits that she has had some difficulty losing her “baby weight” (even if the baby is now 4 years old).


However, we are mystified by our own unsuccessful attempts to lose weight when we have been grazing at salad bars, like a cow, for the last six months and have nothing to show for it except the pound that was gained.


There are foods commonly mistakenly associated with “diet” and “weight loss,” says Danna Barnes, RN, BSN, MS, Florida Blue Care consultant.


“People generally think of salads as a ‘healthy’ food. That is true, but then you have to be careful of all of the salad toppings and dressings that complete your salad. Ask for the salad dressing to be served on the side to avoid ‘derailing’ your healthy weight-loss plan,” Barnes says. “Remember to eat a lot fresh fruit and vegetables and especially green leafy vegetables daily. Also do not forget daily exercise,” she says.





Working through lunch can be very productive, in terms of impressing the boss, but it can be a surefire way to lose ground when trying to lose weight. Often, by the time, we are able to get to food, we are so hungry that our food choices are not the best.


“Eating five to six small meals throughout the day to keep your appetite in check. Keep healthy ‘munchies’ at your desk (i.e., fresh carrots, celery sticks, broccoli spears, cucumber slices, baked chips and healthy nuts — raw walnuts, almonds and Brazil nuts),” Barnes says.


It is also wise to drink plenty of water. This hydrates the body and gives a feeling of being full. This can be very helpful when grocery shopping. Not having an empty stomach decreases the chances of impulse buying.


Mack points out another key benefit associated with daily water intake.


“I drink water to flush out toxins. I really don’t think of water as a means to cut back on the amount of food I eat,” Mack says. “I try to limit my portion size, but I like to feel satisfied (not full) when I am done eating.”





There are some foods that are not going to help maintain results earned from diligently working out and monitoring food intake, during the winter, and they are not going to help getting into swimsuit. These foods should typically be avoided.


“Cutting back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars and salt/sodium,” Barnes says.





There are multiple health benefits, including cardiovascular, weight and digestive, to a diet that is inclusive of fiber.


Fiber adds to the feeling of being full faster without added calories. Like water, this allows one the opportunity to stave off hunger and make wiser food decisions.


Fiber found in oats is touted to help lower “bad” cholesterol levels. This might make taking a second look at oatmeal worthwhile.


According to a recent Harvard University study, some forms of cancer may be prevented by a fiber-rich diet.


Additionally, indications are that the risk of hemorrhoid development is lowered (


“Fiber can help keep blood sugar levels stable,” Barnes says.


“Reach for high fiber foods, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables. One hundred percent whole grain breads, pastas or rices are great options along with fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. It is recommended for the average, healthy woman to have 25g of fiber each day. Fiber has also been shown to aid with weight loss,” she says.


“Make sure you add a healthy protein and utilize ‘good’ fats like canola or olive oil when preparing your meals.”


Air-popped plain popcorn has gained popularity with nutrition experts and health-conscious eaters because of its beneficial fiber content and antioxidants. This snack ranks highly on Mack’s list.


“Popcorn is my favorite snack,” Mack says.





Convenience is a big deal when it comes to snacking. People are less likely to opt for a snack that requires formulating a grocery list, using high math to calculate the nutritional value or spending hours preparing it.


Barnes suggests some good-to-grab fridge and pantry options that are not likely to ruin attempts to lose or maintain weight: “Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or 1 percent milk and dairy products, and canola or olive oil when preparing your meals.”


For Mack, having easily accessible foods on hand has proven very beneficial.


“Graham crackers, fresh fruits and vegetables, plain popcorn and nuts work best for me. If I am at home, I will have Greek yogurt with fruit,” Mack says.





• Greek yogurt — double the amount of protein as regular yogurt. Can be used in place of mayo and sour cream.


• Low-fat string cheese — can be paired with a piece of fruit.


• Hummus — great as a dip or as a substitute for mayonnaise on sandwiches.

• Eggs — convenient snack when hard-boiled. Lightly salt and pepper.

• Celery — can satisfy sweet tooth when paired with peanut butter and apple slices.

• Organic greens (e.g. kale, arugula or spinach).

• Baby carrots.

• Snow peas.

• Water.

• Fresh fruit (e.g. apples, oranges, berries and bananas).




• Whole-grain cereal, pasta, bread or crackers.

• Lentils.

• Canned or dried beans (e.g. chickpeas and black beans).

• Peanut butter.

• Seeds and nuts (e.g. almonds, sunflowers and walnuts).

• Salsa.

• Apple sauce.

• Oatmeal.




• Nuts (pre-portioned packs of mixed nuts).

• Protein bar.

• Flavored powder for water (Crystal Light).

• Bottled water.

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