In March during National Nutrition Month,  it was announced that this year’s focus is on encouraging people to “bite into a healthy lifestyle.” A specific area of focus is healthy snacking.

Often we spend much time thinking and preparing a balanced meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, it is the impulsive unplanned snacking that can throw calorie count and good nutrition right out the window.

Snacking doesn’t have to be of poor nutritional quality. If we give it a little thought we can build in some great nutrition in between meals. Contributing to our unplanned snacking is a belief system that any snacking is bad. However, for active children and older adults who have smaller appetites, snacks can be a necessity. So plan for them, carry some nuts or carrot sticks, so you won’t be tempted by the vending machine that calls to your grumbling stomach.

One of the recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is to make snack calories count by thinking of the snack as a mini-meal that provide nutrition. Changing how we think of snacks can change what we consider for the snack.

At a recent cooking class with kids we made healthy snacks. We made “sammys,” slices of cucumber that sandwich a slice of turkey and cheese, fruit kabobs with alternating cheese and fruit chunks, and a spritzer made with seltzer and 100 percent juice. The kids loved the snacks and couldn’t wait to bring the information home to their parents. However, the best part for me was seeing the kids gobbling up cucumbers and melon with gusto. My hope is that the children may have some new snacks ideas to replace chips and other junk food that don’t provide much nutrition — just a lot of empty calories.
Kate Goldberg is the nutrition educator at Healthy Oxford Hills, which is a project of Stephens Memorial Hospital.

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