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Snack Packing

Packing healthy snacks can be a nightmare… especially if you spend too much time in the snack aisle of the supermarket. Choices are lined from top to bottom on an endless line of shelving. Bright colors draw our eyes to dozens of packages. Which ones should you choose? Stop right there. Before you grab one of those brightly colored packages promising that taste buds will start dancing, learn the labels and make healthy choices.

Get the goodness of whole grain. Snacks such as popcorn, tortilla chips and other multi-grain products offer fiber and vitamins/minerals that generally come in whole grain foods. Watch out for the ones laced with ingredients that sound like a chemistry lab. Look for whole ingredients to get the best nutrient and fiber profile.

Look for sugars. Sugars turn up on the label with strange names. Here’s a general rule for sugars and labeling: if a word ends in “ose,” it is a sugar. Glucose, fructose, and sucrose are some of the common names. Sometimes manufacturers use several types of sugar in a product. Make sure to look for these and other sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup and honey. Getting snacks loaded with these sugars are not the best for supporting a healthy diet.

Minimize the sodium. We get a lot of sodium from processed and packaged foods. It is recommended that we get no more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily but some snacks can put us over the top. Check the label to make sure that you are getting no more than 400 mg sodium per serving of the snack.

Don’t fall for misleading labels. When we see low-fat or reduced-sugar, we may think that a snack is a healthy choice. This may not be the case. Sometimes these products are still high in calories. Check the “Nutrition Facts” and make sure the calories are in a reasonable range… perhaps 200 – 250 calories per serving.

Instead of pre-packaged snacks, try natural snacks. Grabbing an apple, a box of raisins, or dried fruits and nuts make healthy snacks without all of the processed ingredients. By packaging your snacks, you’ll get a better snack without all of those extra ingredients. Need other ideas: tangerines, peanut butter and crackers, yogurt, banana and peanut butter and trail mix are a few. But don’t stop here. What are some of your favorites?

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About Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

is a dietitian in Southern California.

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