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Published October 25, 2012, 12:00 AM

Prairie Fare: Smart snacking can fill nutritional gaps

About midmorning, I sometimes find myself a little low in energy, so I rob my lunch bag. I eat the yogurt, crackers or piece of fruit. Sometimes I eat all of the ready-to-eat foods. By lunchtime, much to my disappointment, sometimes I have one thing left to eat. That’s a pretty sad lunch.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

About midmorning, I sometimes find myself a little low in energy, so I rob my lunch bag. I eat the yogurt, crackers or piece of fruit. Sometimes I eat all of the ready-to-eat foods.

By lunchtime, much to my disappointment, sometimes I have one thing left to eat. That’s a pretty sad lunch.

I guess this snacking behavior qualifies me as a “grazer,” at least occasionally.

Snacking sometimes has bad connotations. However, researchers have reported positive nutrition outcomes associated with snacking, especially among older adults and children.

In a study of about 2,000 adults aged 65 or older, 84 percent reported snacking. When the researchers analyzed their intake of several nutrients and calories, they reported that the snackers consumed more protein and energy.

Many older adults have a lower appetite, so they may shortchange themselves on protein intake or not take in enough calories to meet their nutrition needs.

Children, with their smaller stomachs, may have a difficult time meeting their nutrition needs unless healthy snacks are provided for them.

Regardless of your age, enjoying some healthy snacks helps keep your energy up and makes you less likely to overeat later. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help us meet our nutrition needs.

Use the recommendations at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ to guide your food choices. You can print out an individual recommendation based on your age, weight, gender and activity level.

Although you may be tempted to visit a nearby vending machine for a candy bar or chips when you feel hungry, try to make your snacks count toward meeting your nutritional needs. Some vending machines offer healthier choices, such as 100 percent juice, 100-calorie snack packets, baked chips, dried fruits and pretzels.

Are there any food groups lacking in your diet? For example, most adults need about 4.5 cups (total) of fruits and vegetables per day. Are you meeting that goal? Are you eating about three servings of whole-grain foods? Are you meeting your calcium needs by regularly choosing low-fat dairy and other calcium-rich foods?

Here are some snack ideas that require no cooking and can be eaten almost anywhere:

-Grain group: Whole-grain minimuffins, banana or pumpkin bread, whole-grain crackers or air-popped popcorn.

- Vegetable group: Baby carrots, broccoli florets or cauliflower.

- Fruit group: Grapes, strawberries or melon chunks; whole fruits, such as apples, oranges and plums; prepackaged fruit cups or dried fruit.

- Milk group: String cheese; low-fat or fat-free yogurt.

- Meat and beans group: unsalted or lightly salted nuts

For more information, recipes and tips about nutrition and fitness, visit www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart.

Here’s a recipe courtesy of the Iowa State University Extension Service that will fill your home with the aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon, which is perfect on a crisp, fall day.

This recipe features yogurt in place of eggs and whole-wheat flour is substituted for half of the flour. These modifications result in a tasty treat that is lower in fat and higher in fiber. Bring a piece to work for a snack.


Pumpkin Bread

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

1 cup sugar

¼ cup canola or sunflower oil

1 cup plain, low-fat yogurt

1½ cup all-purpose flour

1½ cup whole-wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat together pumpkin, sugar, oil and yogurt. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, soda, cinnamon and salt; add to pumpkin mixture and stir until just moistened. Stir in raisins.

Pour into two greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove from pan and cool completely.

Makes 32 servings. Each serving has 110 calories, 2 g of fat, 21 g of carbohydrate, 1 g of fiber and 40 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin A (as beta carotene).


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

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