Food is everywhere, it seems, all the time.
From the candy jar on your office receptionist's desk to the free donuts in the break room, there is no limit to temptation.
So, this raises tons of questions about snacks and snacking.
What exactly should be considered a snack?
When is snacking appropriate or not appropriate?
What constitutes snacking vs. grazing all day?
Do kids need snacks?
Registered dietitian nutritionist, Kristi King, offers tips for a healthy approach to snacking for both adults and kids.
Transcription:Melanie Cole (Host):
Food is everywhere all the time. Commercials and media – you just see it and hear it and think about it all the time. But this raises questions about snacks: Do kids really need snacks? When is snacking appropriate or not appropriate?
My guest today is registered dietician nutritionist, Christie King. She's a senior pediatric dietician at Texas Children's Hospital. Welcome to the show, Christie. So snacking: to snack or not to snack? Are we supposed to and what are some really good ones for us?Christie King (Guest):
Yes, those are all really great questions and what's interesting is that if you look at the trends, our snacking amongst kids has doubled since 1977. So, our kids are now consuming more snacks with about a fourth of their daily caloric intake is coming from snacks. Unfortunately, they're not all healthy snacks. These snacks that are contributing to their caloric intake are snacks that are high in salt, candy, sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts. So we know that snacks are extremely important in children, and they're not just special treats anymore because when you and I were growing up, I think most parents would testify to the fact that a snack was something that was a special treat. We're kind of going away from that train of thought and we're going in to something that snacks are there to help bridge gaps of nutrients that your child may need. They're there to help reduce hunger spikes and to help young children and adults from being "hangry,” you know, the popular term where you get hungry and you become angry because you're hungry. We want to prevent that, and that's why a snack is so important for kids and for adults.Melanie:
So important. So what are some great great snacks? Because you've talked about whether it's good for kids and us but there are chips out there and there are healthy chips and multigrain chips and fruits and veggies. So what are some really good healthy snacks we can just grab and go?Christie:
Right. So the thing to remember about healthy snacks is that they should be planned. Just like you plan your meal, you want to make sure that you're planning your snacks especially for your kids as well. So a snack should be about 100-200 calories; that's considered a snack. And for kids, try to incorporate two food groups or more into that snack. So an example would be like a piece of fresh fruit with a light string cheese. You could do celery with some sort of nut butter or you could do celery with a soft cheese or a light cream cheese that's spread in the middle so it's kind of a new twist on the ants on a log. You could do graham crackers with peanut butter or with yogurt. You could do carrots or bell pepper slices with hummus. So you'll see that what we're looking for is we're looking for a snack that's about 100-200 calories and one that has two or more food groups with it. And the reason why we want to look at that and we want to focus on that is because: 1) we’ll make sure that our kids are getting the nutrients that they need; but 2) those two different food groups are going to provide us various things – various fat content, various protein content and various carbohydrate content to help them keep full so that they aren't going to be hungry until their next meal.Melanie:
Absolutely great advice really, with some good ideas for things that you can grab and go. Now because kids snack at school, Christie, so what about granola bars and there's a million of those on the market, Z Bars and this and that. Are those good snacks or do they really pack the calories in?Christie
: Well, you want to be careful about the type of snacks that you're choosing, especially if you're going to go for a granola bar or some other type of bar. So again, you want to look at the calorie content, we want it to be between 100-200 calories and we want to look at the sugar. Now some granola bars do have quite a bit of sugar because they have dried fruit in there. That's very different than added sugar and that can be really confusing for parents because it's confusing for healthcare providers as well sometimes. So you want to, if you have a question, what I recommend is to just kind of stay away from the bars. You can use the bars in a pinch if you need to but it's not something that we want your child to rely on every single day. So aim more for those whole fruits and vegetables, aim for those nut butters or yogurts or string cheese sticks, those types of things, so that we make sure that they're getting a good variety of nutrients.Melanie
: So we really do want that whole good variety and we want to get our kids to try more things, and ourselves too, because it's easy to mindlessly snack. So Christie, give us your best advice for not mindlessly snacking.Christie
: Right. So there is a huge difference between snacking and grazing. Grazing is going to be that mindless eating, where snacking is planned. So, like I said before, our meals are planned, our snacks should be planned as well. We want to make sure that we plan the snacks, and that will help you from mindlessly eating later on. With the grazing, we have constant nibbling but the problem with this is that you're never allowing yourself to get full. You're never reaching your full satiety point. You actually need that so that your stomach has a chance to digest that before your next meal or next time you eat. So if you’re mindlessly grazing all day long, you're kind of setting your metabolism and digestion often to a tailspin and that's what we don't want to happen. So snacks are things that should be eaten in between meals, whereas grazing is occurring all day long. So if you plan your snacks out, I think parents and kids will find that it's much easier to stick to it.Melanie
: Do you have some favorite sort of chippy foods on the market that you like?Christie
: Ooh, that's a good question. I'm a big fan of pita chips and hummus, one of my most favorite things. That's really easy to do. You can actually make your own at home with pita bread. It takes two seconds to cut it up and put it in the oven. Your kids can help with that as well. Other types of things that tend to be salty, some sort of cracker, bite-size crackers that kids can pick up and they can put with cheese or they can use a dip with, whether it's a yogurt dip or a hummus-type dip, those tend to be my favorite and they tend go over very well with the kids. I think that what's important when you are dealing with kids and you're talking about planning your snacks and packing their snacks because kids do need snacks. We know that most kids, depending upon lunchtime are going to have a mid-morning snack at school and then they're going to have a snack after school. So we want to give the kid an option as to what they're going to choose for their snack because they're going to be more likely to eat it if they have a choice in it versus trading it with their friend that has something that might be a little bit more desirable to them. So we want to make sure that we're giving them lots of choices and say, Here are five things: What are two things that you would like to take for your snack or your after-school snack?” So we want to make sure that our kids are most definitely involved in the planning as well as preparing their snack so that they are a little bit more invested in it and are more willing to eat it and maybe try new things.Melanie
: And, Christie, in just the last minute or so that we have left, your best advice for healthy snacking and snacking right so that we really don't overdo it and add to our daily caloric intake.Christie
: Exactly. Hundred to 200 calories is a snack, we want to make sure that they're planned, and two different food groups. Make sure that we're getting a good protein source and a carbohydrate or vegetable with hummus or vegetable with another protein source or dairy. So that's my best advice for parents. And get your kids involved. It's a great time to help teach them what healthy snacking is, what healthy foods are, and it can open a dialogue to a whole new level.Melanie
: Thank you so much. You're listening to Eat Right Radio with our friends from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, you can go to eatright.org. This is Melanie Cole, thanks for listening.