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What’s a Healthy Snack?

One treat that often finds its way into my shopping cart is a package of peanut butter cups. This might be one of my guilty temptations, but the good news is some snacks can actually be good for us. So if you’re on a budget…or even a diet, how do you make the right decisions about what to slip into the shopping cart? Here are some ideas-

Just What Nature Intended
Elaine Wilkes N. C., M. A., who is also known as The Snack Therapist, suggests selecting a snack that’s as close to nature as you can find. Go with the fruits and veggies and stay away from anything that’s highly processed.

Read Those Labels
Don’t just put any item into the cart, get used to reading the label. And Wilkes says pay close attention to those first three ingredients. If you see sugar listed there, put the item back on the shelf.

But Not All Sugar is Bad
Having told you to avoid sugary snacks, here’s one exception to the rule. If you’re making a choice between a snack containing sugar and one made with high fructose corn syrup, opt for the one containing sugar. Many manufacturers use corn syrup because it’s cheaper and they make more of a profit, but studies have shown that consuming too much of this sweetener can pack on the pounds. And if you think that snacks containing artificial sweeteners are okay, think again. Wilkes says they trick your body into overeating because it’s basically getting ready for something sweet anyway, so there’s no advantage. And check the amount of sugar in a snack. A good rule of thumb is 4.2 grams equals one teaspoon of sugar. Look at the grams on the label and divide it by 4.

Hold the Salt Shaker
Peggy O’Shea Kochenbach, a registered dietitian, says salty snacks have really taken off because lots of people crave these types of foods. But new guidelines suggest we eat less than ½ teaspoon of salt a day. And the bad news is that most of us consume at least two teaspoons. So once again check those labels and remember that 2300 mg. of sodium equals one teaspoon of salt.

Watch The Low Fat Snacks
Don’t just grab any low fat snack because many have added sugar to make up for the loss of taste when the fat is removed. Kochenbach suggests aiming for a snack with 3 grams of fat per 100 calories. But stay away from saturated and trans fat.

Watch Those Granola Bars
The granola and energy bars always look like a good pick, but not all of them are. Go for the ones with fruit and fiber and not sugar and chocolate.

Make Your Own
So what snacks should you stock in your pantry? Both Wilkes and Kochenbach give peanut butter high marks. A small salad with a dressing containing olive oil is a good choice because it’s a good type of fat and helps our bodies absorb the vitamins in the salad veggies. Other choices, low fat cheeses, whole grain crackers, low fat/low sugar yogurt, nuts and yes, even guacamole dip.

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