During Snack Month, Remember: Carrots Beat Cookies

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Recent research on children’s snacking shows some stark statistics. All the more reason, says a University of Florida registered dietitian, to eat fruits and veggies rather than potato chips when it’s snack time.

February is National Snack Food Month, a time to recognize the benefits of healthy foods we eat between meals.

Encouraging healthy snacks can help children fill in nutrient gaps during the day, said Kaley Mialki, a youth programs specialist with the UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program (FNP). What’s the key to getting children to eat more fruits and vegetables for snacks? Have fun with the produce and keep it visible, she said.

“I think a lot of kids like dipping things,” said Mialki. “And a lot of kids like fun colors. So, if we can find a way to cut up colorful vegetables for children, store them in a convenient and easy-to-find place and have it with a type of salad dressing or dip that kids like, then they might be more likely to eat them.”

FNP offers free nutrition education in 40 Florida counties to people eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through UF/IFAS Extension.

Just like children, adults like to nosh. Mialki suggests adults plan their healthy snacks. She recommends you keep in mind how many calories you should be eating each day, she said. Daily caloric needs vary depending on your physical activity level, age, body size and composition, physical health and weight goals.

You can use this website to help you estimate your caloric intake and determine how many calories you can allot to meals and snacks. On the web link, you enter information about your body size and your physical activity, and it estimates how many calories per day you should consider eating with your snacks. Mialki recommends speaking with your doctor or a registered dietitian before making major diet or lifestyle changes.

Lots of adults work long hours or spend a lot of time driving around for their jobs. For those folks, Mialki suggests planning and preparing healthy snacks before you leave home. That includes packing snacks in a cooler or bringing along snacks that won’t go bad in the vehicle.

“You also want to consider a snack that you’re actually going to eat,” Mialki said. Choose more than one food group in the snack, so we’re getting a well-balanced snack.

For many adults, a snack consists of chips or a candy bar at a convenience store. Mialki said you can avoid those, as well, and get in and out of the store just as quickly.

“Look for fresh fruits and vegetables, which are available at many convenience stores,” she said. “You can also find fresh, low-fat or fat-free dairy, including varieties of yogurt, which are healthy for you. Dried fruit, nuts and seeds are other great options.”

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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