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No Guilt With Healthy Snacking

When hunger strikes between meals, we usually have a snack to tide us over. But how healthy are the snack choices we make? On the Early Show, nutritionist Ruth Carey and psychotherapist Sam Cohen had some healthy snacking advice.

As a registered and licensed dietitian, Carey runs her own nutrition practice in Portland, Oregon. She works with children and adults who seek to lose weight or be more fit and healthy. Carey is also the nutritional consultant for the Nike Corporate Fitness Campus. She is currently helping in the launch and review of the new Crunch Snack Bars by Body Smarts.

Carey recommends some of the following snacks that contain both carbohydrates and proteins:

  • Low or nonfat yogurt: Low in sugar and sweetened with fruit, yogurts have both carbohydrates and proteins (for example: Cascades Fresh or Horizon yogurts).
  • Fruits with cheese or peanut butter (for example: apple slices with peanut butter or grapes with cheese).
  • Nonfat decaf latte for adults or milk for kids (milk naturally provides carbohydrates and proteins).
  • Almonds with raisins: Trail mix combinations such as nuts (like almonds or peanuts) provide protein, while fruits (like bananas or raisins) contain carbohydrates. Note: Pre-made trail mix can be higher in sugar and fat.
  • Snack bars: The crunch bars have added protein (regular power bars are mostly carbohydrates), fiber (to help the food stay with you longer), and are fortified with 17 vitamins and minerals. They're sweet, which is what people often crave, but have nutritional benefits. Choose those with 6 grams or more of protein.

Carey advises to stay away from snacks that are pure sugar with no protein, like the traditional candy bars. You'll end up craving more sugar and be hungry in an hour.

The same goes for fruit smoothies, which don't stay with you for a long time. As for pretzels--they make a good snack providing carbohydrates, but need to be eaten with a protein like cheese. And although they're high in salt, they're a better alternative to chips.

To gain insights into snacking habits and find out how nutrition plays a role in the choices we make, Roper Starch Worldwide conducted a survey for Body Smarts. A total of 1,000 telephone interviews were completed June 8 through 11, 2001, among a national sample of adult men and women. The margin of error for the survey is plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

The following are the survey findings:

Snack Tactics: How and Why We Snack

Midafternoon craving confirmed: More than one-third (40%) of respondents reach for a sweet snack or candy midafternoon (including 47% of women).

Prolonging the longing: More than one-fifth (21%) of respondents take little nibbles of their sweet snacks and candy to make them last longer.

Giving in when the going gets tough: Almost one-third (29%) of women give in to candy or snack cravigs when they're bored or going through emotional or trying times.

Crime and punishment: Almost a quarter (24%) of people aged 25-34 punish themselves by spending extra time at the gym or even skip a meal when they eat a snack or candy that's not good for them.

The survey also shows that many Americans experience some internal struggle between their conscience and their cravings when it comes to selecting and eating a snack. These people were classified as "conflicted snackers." If a walk down the candy aisle leaves you torn, chances are you're one of them.

According to the new Roper Starch survey that delved into US snacking habits, 63% of Americans qualify as "conflicted snackers." To determine whether those surveyed were conflicted snackers, Dr. Sam Cohen, psychotherapist and president of Psychologics, tracked certain characteristics, including:

  • Choosing a candy or snack is an inner struggle beteween what they crave and what they think they shoud eat (41%).
  • They feel guilty when they eat snacks and candy that aren't nutritious (33%).
  • They have contradictory snacking habits--like drinking a diet soda with candy or skim milk with cookies (35%).

"Eating candy can provide a lot of satisfying benefits: It can give us instant gratification, help improve our mood, and act as a reward," Cohen says. "But many people experience feelings of guilt or lower self-esteem after indulging in a sweet snack." Adds Carey, "We're all human. We're all going to give in to our need for something sweet now and then, but if we have the choice, it makes sense to reach for a sweet snack that tastes great but also gives the body an extra nutritional benefit."
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