While I am just beginning my AUSSIE adventure, here’s a guest post from the fabulous Elisa Zied – Enjoy!
Who doesn’t love to snack? Snacking has become one of America’s favorite pastimes. That’s no big surprise given the widespread availability of snack choices. Even fast food restaurants have begun to offer a few “snack” options to consumers who are on the go and need a quick pick-me-up.
A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that 97 percent of American adults snack—that’s up from 71 percent just 2 decades ago. On average, we have about 2 snacks a day, and about 24 percent of our total calories come from snacks. Unfortunately, instead of choosing mostly healthful foods for our snacks, we increasingly salty snacks as well as candy, nuts/seeds, alcoholic beverages, fruit drinks, and sport drinks.
Although snacks can certainly be a healthful part of one’s daily diet, and can provide more opportunities to fill in nutrition gaps not met at meals, they tend to contribute to our intake of sodium and added sugars. Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans urge us to substantially cut back on sodium. We currently consume about 3,400 milligrams of the salty stuff each day, but the recommendation is for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day—that’s about one teaspoon of salt; for African Americans, those with hypertension, and all of us aged 51 and above, the Guidelines recommend no more than 1,500 milligrams a day of sodium. As for added sugar, found in items such as candy, non-diet soda, fruit drinks, and grain-based desserts like cookies and cake, current Guidelines suggest keeping intake to no more than 32 grams (126 calories) for a 2,000 calorie dietary pattern.
Here are 5 tips to help you stay satisfied while you snack, and at the same time, help you meet federal recommendations for a diet that’s a little less sweet and a lot less salty:
1. Go Fresh. When you choose a snack, always include some produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. If you buy canned, frozen, or other packaged varieties, read ingredients lists to make sure there’s minimal or no added sugar or sodium. (It’s important to make it a habit to read labels for all foods—you may very well see some surprising sources of sodium and added sugar).
2. Go Nuts! Believe it or not, most raw nuts and seeds contain very little sodium. If going raw does not entice you, choose unsalted dry roasted nuts. If you refuse to give up salted nuts, read labels and stick to one portion per day (about an ounce or two, or a portion that provides no more than 10 percent of your daily sodium cap–150 milligrams if your goal is 1,500 milligrams, or 230 milligrams if your goal is 2,300 milligrams.)
3. Get the Whole Story About Whole Grains: Whole grain cereals and crackers oftentimes provide good amounts of fiber, but they may also pack in lots of hidden sodium and added sugar. As a general rule of thumb, look for whole grain cereals with less than 150 to 200 milligrams of sodium and no more than 8 grams of added sugar per cup. Unfrosted mini-wheats and shredded wheat, for example, have very little sodium and added sugar. Similarly, look for whole grain crackers that provide less than 150 to 200 milligrams of sodium per portion with no added sugar. You can air pop some popcorn ( a whole grain) or make it with canola oil and salt-free seasonings
4. Slash Salt in Snacks: Fortunately, there are more and more lower sodium snack options available. So swap salty whole grain pretzels for those that are unsalted and lower in sodium. If you must have chips, opt for whole grain chip options, but stick to one 100 to 150 calorie portion per day that provides no more than 150 or 200 milligrams of sodium. Better yet, you can make your own toasted whole grain corn chips by slicing corn tortillas into triangles, topping them with a hint of lemon or lime juice, pepper and/or chili powder or other no-sodium seasonings.
5. Do Dessert. It’s unrealistic to think you’re never going to have a few cookies, some candy or chocolate, a piece of cake, or another treat. But it’s key to be mindful of portions, and to count foods that don’t neatly fit into any food group as desserts (and not snacks!) If you choose to have dessert, choose only one per day, and keep the portion to no more than 100 or 150 calories (that’ll help you save on added sugar, solid fat, and sodium not to mention leave room for all the other healthful foods you’ll include throughout the day.) Also, try to have a piece or cup of fruit before you dive into dessert—you may just find you fill up enough to help you pare the portion of your treat even more!
Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN is the founder/president of Zied Health Communications in New York, New York. She’s also the author of Nutrition At Your Fingertips (Alpha, 2009) and Feed Your Family Right! (Wiley, 2007.) For more information, or to sign up for her free weekly e-newsletter, The ZIED GUIDETM, go to http://www.elisazied.com.