Snacks are an important part of your daily diet. In fact, the average American eats about 25 percent of their daily calories between meals. Unfortunately, many people consume foods and beverages that should be considered treats, not snacks.
What’s the difference?
- Snacks are foods you eat between meals to keep energy levels up, but they should still follow healthy eating guidelines. They can help you meet your daily totals of protein, fiber and vitamins.
- Treats are just that—they’re treats. Things like cookies, chips, soda and candy. You can have them on occasion, but they usually have lots of calories, sugar or salt and little nutritional value.
With so much of your daily diet being eaten between meals, you’ll want to think twice about what you choose to snack on if healthy eating is important to you. Food manufacturers work hard to convince you that the foods they sell are good for you. However, these foods may not be all they’re sold to be. Many food packages contain words like “healthy”, “organic” or “natural”. But does that mean they make good snack options?
“Healthy” is a term food manufacturers can put on products that are lower in fat, sodium or cholesterol. But they still may be loaded with sugar and empty calories. Those low-fat cookies labeled as “healthy”? They probably have lots of sugar and not much else.
“Organic” may tell you how a crop was farmed, but it gives you no idea of how nutritious the food is. So if the wheat was farmed organically to go into that cookie, it’s still a cookie.
“Natural” has no real meaning at all—the FDA hasn’t even defined the word. But this one word is helping to sell over $40 billion worth of food in the U.S. each year.
So if you want your snacks to really be healthy, what should you do?
Your best option is to choose real foods. Skip the processed stuff and instead snack on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean protein and dairy. If you do opt for processed foods, don’t just go by the words on the front of the box—read the nutritional label so you get a better idea of how healthy that “healthy” snack really is.