LiveWell Northwest Colorado: The art of healthy snacking

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Ants on a log, frozen grapes, jicama soaked in lime juice — is your mouth watering? These are just a few examples of healthy snack choices that can provide you with the nutrients you need to maintain optimum focus and energy throughout the day.

LiveWell Northwest Colorado

This weekly column about health issues publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

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Barb Parnell

Choosing foods high in fat and sugar as snacks can contribute to fatigue and feeling sluggish.

Facts about snacks:

• They are meant to reduce hunger and curb cravings.

• They are not meant to be full meals.

• They should be between 100 to 200 calories and 10 percent or less of your daily fat intake.

Snacks are a great way to add in a few servings of fruits and vegetables to help you meet the five servings perday recommendation. To get the most benefit from your snack, choose a fruit and/or vegetable and add a lean protein or low-fat dairy product.

What about packaged snack options? Occasionally, packaged foods may be a snack of choice.

An easy and free way to find the healthiest packaged snack, try using the Snackwise nutrition rating system, www.snackwise.org.

Snackwise evaluates a snack using 11 nutrition parameters: calories, total fat, saturated and trans fat, sodium, sugar, protein, fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C and then rates the snack as either:

• Green: best choice

• Yellow: choose occasionally

• Red: choose rarely

If your snack choice is not evaluated already, just type the information from the nutrition facts label into the Snackwise calculator, and Snackwise will determine the nutrient density and rates the snacks for you.

The art of healthy snacking is being prepared.

1. Plan ahead and have two snacks ready for the day.

Some healthy snack suggestions include:

• Fruit kabobs

• Deviled eggs with red pepper strips

• Yogurt and fruit

• String cheese and apple slices

• Low-fat cream cheese or almond butter on cucumber rounds

• Vegetables and hummus

• Apples with peanut butter

For some new ideas, try "50 Healthiest Snacks" at www.self.com/body/food/2010/06/50-healthiest-snacks and Fun Snacks for Kids" at www.spoonful.com/recipes/serious-about-snacks.

2. Keep your healthy snacks visible so you are more likely to reach for those instead of unhealthy options.

Enjoy the yummy fruits and vegetables of the season as you make healthy snack choices this summer.

Barb Parnell, of LiveWell Northwest Colorado, can be reached at livewellbparnell@gmail.com.

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