Power Up Your Snacks

According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, about 25 percent of the calories consumed by Americans come from snacks. Chips, crackers, cookies, and candy are often less than nutritious, offering excess calories, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium with few healthy nutrients. Think outside of the box when it comes to snacks and power them up with protein ­and carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates provide energy that fuels bodily function and movement. When you eat carbohydrates, the digestion process turns that carbohydrate into sugar, which goes into your blood stream. When you pair a carbohydrate-rich food with a source of protein, the digestion process is slowed and you get a sustained stream of energy, helping you feel your best.

Choose a complex carbohydrate like whole grains, a vegetable or fruit, paired with a lean protein, for a filling and nutritious snack. For example, you might enjoy a slice of whole wheat bread with a tablespoon of peanut butter; a serving of fresh baby carrots with hummus; or grapes with a piece of string cheese. Rather than eating a bag of potato chips when afternoon hunger strikes, crunch on apple slices with Peanut Butter Whip. Dairy foods contain carbohydrates and protein in a single package, so enjoy a cup of nonfat Greek yogurt, a serving of low-fat cottage cheese or a glass of skim milk for a natural, convenient snack filled with sustained energy.

Jessica CoxJessica Cox is a wellness dietitian at St. Vincent’s One Nineteen Health and Wellness in Birmingham, Alabama. Her passion is teaching people to enjoy healthy and delicious food for a happy life.