Is Your Snacking Sabotaging Your Diet?

By Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD, a member of Welch’s Health & Nutrition Advisory Panel.

Are you a muncher, nibbling on small amounts of food throughout the day but skipping entire meals? If so, you may be sabotaging your diet and health. Skipping meals is associated with weight gain, being overweight and cardiovascular risk factors. And, though we could make the most of our snacks by choosing nutrient-rich foods, research shows that chips and soda are the most commonly consumed snacks in America. Don’t worry, I'm not going to ask you to give up snacking (after all, I’m a grazer). Here's how you can get back on track while still enjoying your midday munching:

(1) Don’t Make Meal Skipping a Habit. The three most common reasons I’ve heard regarding meal skipping are: (1) There’s no time to eat; (2) I want something easy and already prepared; and (3) I’m trying to cut calories. Yet skipping meals is the most frequent reason why people choose less-than-nutritious snacks later in the day. If you’re one of those people who ends up so hungry that you can eat a bag of chips in minutes then it’s time to start eating regular meals. You don’t need to spend copious amounts of time preparing elaborate feasts, but always keep food on hand that you can turn into a meal in minutes, such as better-for-you frozen entrees and cut-up fruit; pre-washed salad greens, nuts, dried fruit and whole grain bread; or frozen veggies, brown rice, chicken and 100% fruit juice for a fruit-filled drink.

(2) Search for What’s Missing. The majority of people agree it’s important for snacks to be healthy, yet many of us are dining on less nutritious options. Coupled with that is the fact that only 6% of Americans are getting enough vegetables and just 8% are meeting recommendations for daily fruit intake. In fact, two-thirds of Americans are not even getting half the amount of fruit needed each day for good health. So what's the bottom line? We need to make the most of our snacks and choose more fruits and vegetables. Remember that fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruit, and 100% fruit juice all count toward daily fruit and vegetable servings!

(3) Make It Fun and Easy! When your snack looks fun and doesn't take a lot of time to prepare, you are more likely to eat it. How can you make it fun, quick and full of nutrition? Create colorful veggie or fruit skewers. If you love chips, choose a better-for-you bean or lentil chip, which is higher in protein and fiber, and pair it with guacamole, salsa or hummus for more flavor and veggies. And, if you have a sweet tooth, try making ice pops with your favorite Greek yogurt or 100% fruit juice.

Here is my favorite recipe for DIY Frozen Fruit Pops and Easy Breakfast Smoothie Popsicles, both of which are made with Welch’s. Here’s the great thing about cooking with Welch’s 100% Grape Juice: the one-of-a-kind, dark purple Concord grape used to make the juice is one deliciously healthy berry (yes, a berry!). In fact, Concord grapes have a lot of the same heart-health benefits as red wine.

Make sure you eat regular meals and think outside the box when it comes to snack time. And remember, healthy snacking can be scrumptious!

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