Sunday, September 6, 2020

Snacks – how much is too much?

Americans love to snack.  Who doesn’t enjoy some snacks?  Most afternoons I enjoy some popcorn as a snack.  Not a bad choice since popcorn is whole grain and actually good for you.  We can fit snacks into our diet, even some not-so-healthy snacks.  But, some of us have no idea how much is too much.  We start to eat a seemingly small portion of a snack and before we know it, we’ve eaten most of the bag or box.  Eat This, Not That! Has some good recommendations on what the correct portion size is for snacks. 

Why watch the portion size?  Many snacks that we enjoy fall into the junk food or empty-calorie food category, meaning the snack food is loaded with calories but not loaded with nutrients.  What are some of those snack foods we tend to eat an over-size amount of?

  • Potato Chips – one of my relatives who loved Pringles said they had to give them up cold turkey.  Why?  Because they would always eat the entire can.  These chips were just too good to stop at a “serving size” of the chips.  In the nutrition class I teach, I bring in a “snack size” bag of potato chips.  Many people think a “snack size” bag is a serving.  But look on the package and some of those seemingly small bags of chips are supposed to be for 2 or more people.  Yet, people buy the bag of chips, eat the whole bag and have no idea of how many calories they just ate.  An 8-ounce bag of Lay’s Classic potato chips is supposed to be for 8 people and a serving size is one ounce or “about 15 chips”.  Who eats only 15 chips?  Eat the whole bag and you take in 1,280 calories.  Eat the “serving size” of only 15 chips and you take in only 160 calories.  
A serving is only 15 chips. 

  • Candy – so much candy comes in huge packages. Buy some jelly beans and it is easy to overeat.  A package of Brach’s Jelly Beans has a whopping 53 servings.  You are supposed to eat only 10 jelly beans for 110 calories.  Many people never look at the back of the package to see how much candy is a “serving”.
Jelly beans - 10 jelly beans is a serving
  • Chocolate – yes, it is “candy” but so many people love chocolate and it is different than any other candy.  For example, chocolate has some health benefits and isn’t entirely junk food.  MedicalNewsToday says chocolate has healthy antioxidants, it may lower your cholesterol levels, and help your brain by preventing memory decline.  But it also recommends eating chocolate in moderation.

  • Soda/pop – Believe it or not, before the 1950’’s, bottles of soda were quite small, around 7 ounces.  Then came the 12-ounce size and now, so many are 20 ounces or more.  Soda used to come in glass bottles, then mostly in metal cans.  Now those 20-ounce sodas are usually in plastic bottles.  Not good for you and not good for the environment.  Soda is truly an “empty-calorie” beverage.  All the added sugar in soda provides lots of calories but virtually no vitamins or minerals.  Interesting, that people who drink their calories in soda, don’t feel as full as they would if they ate those calories in solid food.  Harvard School of Public Health notes that if you drink just one soda a day, over the course of a year you could gain up to 5 pounds, if you didn’t cut back on calories from other foods.  Sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages used to be a treat but now are an every day and sometimes many times a day “snack” for kids and teens.  Harvard Public Health says teens take in 226 calories a day form sugary beverages and kids 6-11 take in 130-209 calories a day from sugary beverages.  Cutting back on these empty-calories is good for anyone’s health.  Kids and teens should be drinking milk with meals.  Between meals, enjoy 100% juice or water.

Recommendations for healthier snacking:

  1. Snack on healthier choices: popcorn, nuts, fruit.
  2. Chips – choose some whole grain chips like Sun Chips.  If you like potato chips, choose Lay’s chips as they are made with heart-healthy oils.  Lay’s now offers some lightly salted chips with 50% less sodium.  The calories are the same, 160 calories per 15 chips, but there is less salt.
  3. Candy – buy the mini bars of chocolate bars – mini PAYDAY’s, mini-musketeer bars.  Then eat 1 or 2 for a snack treat.
  4. Look for 100 calorie snack packs and pack one bag in your lunch.
  5. Cut back or eliminate the sugary beverages.  Skip the Sunny D and fruit drinks and buy real juice. Drink milk at meals and water between meals.  Or choose the low to no calorie seltzer waters.
  6. Look at the Snack Tips for Parents and let your kids help choose some healthy snacks.
Buy the minis and eat only a few.

Enjoy some snacks this week.  But, look on the label and pay attention to the serving size.  

Choose 100 calorie packs.

Sources: portion size ,  MedicalNewsToday , drink ,  Harvard ,  Snack Tips for Parents   Image Sources:  chips   , Jelly,  Beans   , Chocolate , candy , snacks  

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