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Prairie Fare: Snacking May Help With Weight Management

Eating smaller, more frequent meals is a good idea for many people.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

As I walked through our kitchen, I noticed my husband cutting tiny cubes of cheese on a cutting board. I figured he was making training rewards for my daughter to use with her pet dachshund. Our daughter and her dog are members of a dog-training class.

As I sat down to read the newspaper, I overheard my husband talking with our 8-year-old daughter.

“What’s 13 minus 9?” he asked.

“Toothpaste!” she answered with a giggle.

“You need to take this seriously. What’s 13 minus 9?” he repeated.

After a couple more silly answers, she gave the correct answer and I heard her say “yum.” To my amusement, my daughter’s snack was being parceled out with math facts. Her dog was pacing nearby, waiting for his share of cheese.

If our dog had said the correct answer to the math questions, I would have fainted.

“Dad” scored for the creative use of snacks for learning math, anyway. Although using food as a reward is standard practice in dog training, nutrition and parenting experts usually frown on using food as a reward for children. Our daughter certainly enjoyed the attention, though.

Providing our somewhat finicky eater with a calcium-rich snack was a good idea because calcium is a nutrient of concern for many children. Many people grew up with the “don’t eat between meals” message. Snacking often has a negative connotation because many people associate eating between meals with weight gain.

Snacking between meals has been shown to have some positive health benefits, according to several studies.

Researchers studied the relationship between snacking and obesity among adolescents. According to their results, teenagers who snacked were more likely to be at a healthy weight and less likely to have abdominal obesity compared with teens who did not snack regularly.

Even sweet treats may not affect our weight if we compensate for the calories in our other meals. In another study, researchers provided 66 healthy, lean men with a chocolate bar six days a week for six months. Despite an expected weight gain of about 10 pounds, the men did not gain weight. Instead, they adjusted their caloric intake from other foods and stayed at a healthy weight.

Eating throughout the day may come naturally to us. Some researchers liken our tendency to “graze” to the hunter-gatherer days of our distant ancestors.

Eating smaller, more frequent meals is a good idea for many people. For children, such as my growing daughter, eating enough to meet their nutritional needs at three regular meals may be a challenge. Many older adults have decreased appetites, so well-chosen snacks can help them meet their daily nutritional needs.

Spreading our food intake throughout the day also helps us maintain energy, helps maintain consistent blood sugar levels and, in the long run, is associated with lower cholesterol levels, especially LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

As we enter the holiday season with its abundance of food, consider having regular healthful snacks. How about some whole-grain crackers, lower-fat cheese, crunchy apple slices or carrot sticks to maintain your energy? Curbing your appetite with healthful options can help prevent overindulging on cookies and candy when a tempting dessert buffet table presents itself.

Here’s a tasty recipe from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will help you meet the daily recommendation for fruit and milk.

Banana Split Smoothie

2 bananas, sliced

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple in juice, drained

2 c. fat-free milk

1 c. strawberries

2 Tbsp. honey

2 c. ice

4 maraschino cherries (for garnish)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 190 calories, 1 gram (g) of fat, 43 g of carbohydrate, 3 g fiber and 60 percent of the daily value for vitamin C.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Nov. 17, 2011

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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