Monday, July 22, 2013

Snack Attack

Ever have one of those days where you just can't seem to stop eating?  Well, it seems like lately... I've been having one of those weeks!  Blech!

You know the feeling.  You've had your breakfast, maybe a mid morning snack, you ate your lunch early and as a result had a very early afternoon snack... and then, it's 3 or 4 pm and you want to snack again?!!?!

Or maybe instead of having a hungry day, you're just a snacker in general?  Rather than sit down and eat one full meal, you prefer to graze a little here, a little there?

Well, for you snackers out there, here's an interesting snippet I ran across the other day:

Yikes!  The average snack today is 580 calories?!  That's as much as most people should be eating in an entire meal.

When did our snacks become meals?


Sad fact: I tried to Google up some fun images to put in this blog.  After filtering through about 100 images that looked like this:

I only found a very, very small handful that looked like this:

But actually, this just drives home the snippet above.  I guess it really shouldn't be a surprise that our snacks have almost doubled in caloric value.  How could they not, when the average association with snack is a bag of potato chips AND a candy bar?

If you're feeling a little frustrated at this point, don't worry.  I am too.  Even this quiz makes it abundantly clear that we don't know how to differentiate meal items (like pizza and french fries) from snack items (like an apple, or a small palm full of nuts). 

So, what should a snack really be?  That's a tough one, because no one answer seems correct.

For a starting point, let's look to Eating Well.  I actually have one of their cookbooks at home, which I really enjoy... lots of fresh ingredients combined in simple but healthful ways to create delicious and satisfying meals without the piles of salt, fat and sugar.  I have "Eating Well Serves Two" since it's just me and hubs at home.

When researching healthy snacks, I stumbled across an interesting article Eating Well published about how to structure a 1500 calorie a day diet, which includes a subset of what a snack should look like.  Since I'm a fan of their cook book, I decided to cruise through their 1500 calories a day snack suggestions. 

What did I find?

Well, first off, they highlight snacks that come in at 250 calories or less.  Wow, that's less than half the calories in the snippet above.  Amazing. 

But guess what?  Read through some of the suggestions and you'll find some pretty appealing stuff.  Here's a few of my favorites:

Mediterranean Picnic Snack Cheesy Popcorn Quick Kebabs Gorp 

Looks delish, no? 

My favorite part of their article is the last page.  Because not only does it show this:

Easy Snack Ideas For 250 Calories or Less

It also lists a bunch of great snack ideas:

Easy Snack Ideas For 250 Calories or Less

• 1 small apple, 12 almonds + ice water with lemon = 170 calories
• 1 cup baby carrots + 1/4 cup hummus = 157 calories
• 1 cup strawberries + 2 Tbsp. non-fat plain yogurt = 70 calories
• 1 cup cantaloupe + 2 small gingersnaps = 113 calories
• 1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese + 1/2 cup fresh mandarin oranges = 122 calories
• Hard boiled egg, sliced, on 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 2 tsp. Dijon mustard = 141 calories
• 1 small apple + 1 Tbsp. natural creamy peanut butter = 172 calories

I'm sure you are wondering at this point how many calories are "just right" for your snacks.  That I can't answer with 100% accuracy, since it is really based on your personal health and caloric needs.  But when compared with what I could find on meal plans for people in the 1500 calorie a day plan (above), or this 2000 calorie a day plan at the USDA, it looks like something that mimics the list above should be about right.

And, just to hit you over the head, notice how the suggestions above do not include potato chips, soda or candy?  Just sayin'...

So, go ahead.  Snack.  But snack well.

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