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A snack is a portion of food, often smaller than a regular meal, generally eaten between meals. Snacks come in a variety of forms including packaged snack foods and other processed foods, as well as items made from fresh ingredients at home.

Traditionally, snacks are prepared from ingredients commonly available in the home. Often cold cuts, fruit, leftovers, nuts, sandwiches, and the like are used as snacks. The Dagwood sandwich was originally the humorous result of a cartoon character's desire for large snacks. With the spread of convenience stores, packaged snack foods became a significant business. Snack foods are typically designed to be portable, quick, and satisfying. Processed snack foods, as one form of convenience food, are designed to be less perishable, more durable, and more portable than prepared foods. They often contain substantial amounts of sweeteners, preservatives, and appealing ingredients such as chocolate, peanuts, and specially-designed flavors (such as flavored potato chips).

Beverages, such as coffee, are not generally considered snacks though they may be consumed along with or in lieu of snack foods.

A snack eaten shortly before going to bed or during the night may be called a midnight snack.

Here’s a good way to make it a little easier to eat healthy snacks.

Decide before.

Decide before you’re hungry that you will get a certain snack this afternoon, and make it a healthy one. This way, you decrease the risk of grabbing something that is more convenient and perhaps less healthy, like a slice of pizza. A slice of pizza is tasty and super easy – just walk to the pizza place, get a slice and enjoy. Chances are, though, that you’ll also grab a soda to drink with the slice, and before you know it, your snack has turned into a high-calorie, high-sugar, high-carb, high-fat semi-meal.

Then, at 5:30 or 6:00 you’re going to head home and have dinner. Without realizing it, your mid-afternoon snack may have turned today into a pretty unhealthy day.

Now, as much as anyone else, I love to eat pizza. And, there is certainly nothing wrong with grabbing a slice and a soda every now and then, but to maintain a healthy body (and mind), we cannot eat pizza and drink soda every day in the afternoon, even if it is the easier choice. So, what I’m suggesting is todecide before you are hungry, before 3:30pm rolls around, that you will grab a banana, or an apple, or a fruit shake, or a small bag of whole-wheat pretzels, or even regular pretzels. You don’t have to do this every day, just a few more days than you are now. These little improvements go a long way.

Here are some great ideas for healthy snacking throughout the holidays.

Before the Holidays

Healthy snacking can be an important part of staying on target during the holidays. Regular snacks will keep you from being starved before a big meal which makes you more likely to overeat.

According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy holiday eating is easier with a few simple steps:

  • Stay away from the buffet table at holiday parties. Instead, take what you really enjoy, and walk away.
  • Don’t deny yourself, but control your portions of foods high in fat or added sugars.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation only. Alcohol is high in calories and getting tipsy may lead you to lose your healthy inhibition.
  • Although our thoughts of holidays are closely linked to food, remember that holidays are about family and loved ones.

There is no shortage of advice on how to have a happy, healthy holiday. But even the best-laid plans can sometimes go awry, so it’s always good to have a plan that gets you on the right track following the holidays also…

Everyone knows that diet and exercise lead to improved health. But when should we do each, and in what order?

The Mayo Clinic tells us, “Knowing when and how much to eat and drink before you exercise can make a big difference in how you feel during and after your workout.”

According to mothers everywhere, we shouldn’t swim right after we eat. And, while it’s true that digestion does divert circulation away from muscles, is it really significant enough to avoid getting in the water, or on the treadmill?

To answer these questions I did some research, and I found that most sources agree: while it’s best not to eat sugary and fatty foods right before a vigorous workout, the appropriate healthy snack an hour or so before, or even during your workout is safe, and can be beneficial.

Having a simple carbohydrate snack before, or during your workout can be beneficial because it provides your body with an additional source of energy, which helps to accomplish two things:

  1. It ensures that you have enough energy to complete your vigorous workout.
  2. It prevents your body from using protein as a source of energy to fuel your workout.

Here’s how it works: To fuel your workout, your body first uses up all of the carbohydrates you have stored in your body (called glycogen) and all of the carbohydrates you have recently added (via snacking or meals). After your body has used up all of its carbohydrates, it then starts breaking down protein into glucose to be used as energy. You don’t want to use protein as fuel for your workouts because doing so limits your ability to build and maintain important tissues like muscles, bones, skin, hair, etc.

It’s mid-January and the days are getting shorter and colder. While some people are invigorated by the brisk weather, others (like me) are ready for hibernation, until the sun comes out again in spring.

Here are four strategies to keep your energy levels high throughout the day:

  1. Replace your afternoon coffee break with a yogurt and cheese break. BNET Research Center states that the amino acid, tyrosine, present in yogurt and cheese, "converts into the feel-good chemicals dopamine and adrenaline and can energize you as quickly as a cup of coffee." They suggest snacking on 8 ounces of plain low-fat yogurt or 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese melted on bread.
  2. Snack on some water. "If you’re dehydrated, you can’t get nutrients from the foods you eat to the cells in your body, and you’re going to feel tired," says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, director of the Center for Effective Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia Therapies in Annapolis, Maryland in Parents Magazine. So, drink enough water throughout the day to make sure you are making the most of the nutrients in the foods you eat. If you’re used to drinking a soda to keep you going in the afternoon, try seltzer or carbonated water for some fizz that’s more hydrating and won’t spike your blood sugar levels.
  3. Fruit has fiber, so eat fruit. Apples and bananas contain enough fiber to ensure that their sugars are absorbed more slowly and evenly – thereby preventing a sugar high and crash. Try an apple drizzled with honey for a good fiber and sugar match. You will get a quick boost from the sweet honey, but it will be absorbed slowly due to the apple’s fiber. Sweet!
  4. Toast and peanut butter. Personally, I like an English muffin and all-natural almond butter, but peanut butter is tasty, and healthy in small doses. The toast provides a satisfying crunch and the nut-butter fills you up with protein and flavor.

The Chocolate-Covered Health Test

The trick is to do a quick label check to find out: (1) the type of chocolate coating, and (2) whether the item under the coating is natural or candied.

Here’s what you do:

(1) Check the chocolate coating.

Make sure it’s dark chocolate, not milk chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the higher the percentage of cacao (the actual beans used to make chocolate), and the lower the amount of added butter and sugar. So, you get fewer grams of fat and more of the health benefits of the cacao itself. These health benefits include:

  • antioxidants, which may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease
  • minerals, such as copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and calcium
  • some researchers say that dark chocolate may even help boost seratonin, the hormone that helps control mood, and contains phenylethylamine, which is the same chemical released by the brain when people are in love!

NOTE: Sometimes the nuts are dusted with cocoa powder (see photo above). Cocoa powder is just ground cacao, which, as mentioned above, is good for you, as long as it’s unsweetened.

Unfortunately, this dark chocolate rule means that Nestle’s Raisinettes have to be ruled out of the healthy chocolate-covered snacks category. They may seem like a smart option at the movie theater—raisins are nature’s candy!—but the coating is a sugary milk chocolate; you’re not getting much natural cocoa here. That’s not to say you shouldn’t eat them, but you should consider them more of a treat.

Attending a Super Bowl party doesn’t mean you have to blow your diet or go off of your health-kick. Here are some ways to eat well during the big game.

1. Avoid mindless munching. Enjoy each chip and take smaller handfuls, that way you get to reach into the bowl more times.


2. Go spicy! Add curry, chili powder, or whatever other spice you choose to your dips, salsas, and guacamole. Or try The Food Network/Eating Well’s recipe for spicy blue cheese dip. Some nutritionists say that when you add spices to your food, you get full faster and don’t eat as much. Also, because spices add so much flavor, you can get away with using a low-fat or reduced fat base (like mayo or sour cream), and your final product won’t be bland at all.

3. Add more protein to your snacks. Toss some pinto beans into your salsa. Make a black bean dip or a mixed-bean chili. Beans are a good source of fiber and protein, and protein helps fill you up faster so you don’t eat as many chips or as much greasy food and dessert. (Maybe you shouldn’t follow this bean suggestion if you’ll be attending a Super Bowl party with some new friends…)

4. Go with oven-fried or baked goodies. Make oven-fried zucchini sticks or fries; buy baked tortilla chips. You’ll be smothering your chips with salsa, anyway, so you won’t notice the slight taste difference.


Allow me to state the obvious: kids love to snack. Their bodies are growing, their metabolisms are fast, and they’re always hungry. They’re starving in between classes, they’re famished when they get home from school, and they get the munchies late at night. A lot of schools (middle, not just elementary) are aware of this and have even built morning snack time into the schedule—this is especially common in districts where lunch periods are late, and kids have to wait a while to eat (and many of those kids skip breakfast, so their stomachs are really empty by lunch if they don’t get a snack…). Conversely, many kids have really early lunch periods and are starving by late afternoon. I remember that when I was younger, my hungriest time was around 3 pm, right when I got home from school. I would walk in the door, immediately raid the kitchen cabinets, and begin eating pretzels, peanut butter, cookies… anything I could find.

As parents, you want your kids to eat healthy snacks and get the right nutrients, and not just reach for a Twinkie, a bag of Lays, or sugary Sweet Tarts. But how on earth do you get them to do that? Kids want things that taste good (and are fun to eat), not things that are good for them!

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