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In today's busy world, snacking is part of our daily routine. We enjoy milk and cookies after school, munch carrot and celery sticks while preparing dinner, and reach for a handful of crackers before bed. Snacks are an important source of energy and can provide key nutrients. So it's important to make informed, as well as great-tasting, snack choices. The Food Guide Pyramid, developed by nutrition experts, helps make snacking work to your advantage.
The Pyramid advantage
The Food Guide Pyramid, with its five food groups, offers practical advice for choosing a healthful diet that meets your individual nutrient and calorie needs. These needs are determined by your age, sex, body size, and activity level. Most people two years of age and over should eat at least the minimum recommended number of servings from each group daily--with moderate amounts from the tip of the Pyramid.
From the base of the Pyramid right up to the top, each food group is unique. Foods from one group cannot replace those in another. A varied diet is important to provide all the vitamins and minerals needed for good health. Follow these Pyramid suggestions and then plan snacks that complement your daily meals.
On the home front
If you are like most people, you enjoy snacking at home. Keep the snacks you want to eat on hand. Stock a convenient cupboard with an assortment of breads, crackers, graham snacks, pretzels, breadsticks, and ready-to-eat cereals. Prepare and chill raw veggies: red and green pepper strips, zucchini wedges, cauliflower and broccoli florets, and cucumber slices. Store a variety of lower-fat cheeses and sandwich fillings, low-fat yogurt and milk, fruit, and juices in the refrigerator. These choices put the fixings for some wholesome and delicious snacks within easy reach. Our quick recipe below is one example!
Pyramid snacks to go!
Many of your favorite snacks can also travel with you.
Whether you are heading off to basketball practice, a day of school or work, or a trip by plane or train, bring along some tasty, portable snacks. You will be prepared when the urge to nibble strikes. Here are a few ideas:
- Pack up a banana and four graham squares.
- Fit a fruit juice box and a bran muffin into a briefcase.
- Stow a single-serve package of pretzel chips and an orange in a backpack or tote.
- Wrap up a mini-bagel spread with apple butter.
- Store a box of crackers and some small cans of vegetable juice in a desk drawer or locker.
- Carry along a couple of breadsticks for easy munching.
Planning ahead allows you to choose your snacks--even when you are away from home.
Black Bean Dip
1 (16-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup medium thick and chunky salsa
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup shredded carrot
Shredded carrot, for garnish
In food processor or electric blender, combine beans, 1/4 cup salsa, garlic, and cumin; blend until smooth. Stir in remaining salsa and carrot. Cover; chill for at least 1 hour to blend flavors. Garnish with carrot if desired. Serve as a dip with crackers or vegetables.
Makes 1-1/2 cups
Nutrition information per 2 tablespoons: 26 calories, 121 milligrams sodium, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 0 grams total fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 2 grams fiber.
Snacks fit on the Pyramid
As you can see, all foods, including snacks, fit within the Food Guide Pyramid. When planned as part of your daily food choices, snacks can help fill hunger gaps, contribute energy and important nutrients, and add to your eating enjoyment. Here's to happy, healthful snacking!
For more information
The American Dietetic Association/National Center
for Nutrition and Dietetics Consumer Nutrition Hot Line.
For food and nutrition information or for a referral to a registered dietitian in your area, call 800/366-1655. For customized answers to your food and nutrition questions by a registered dietitian, call 900/CALL-AN-RD (900/225-5267). The cost of the call will be $1.95 for the first minute and $.95 for each additional minute.
This fact sheet is supported by a grant from Nabisco Biscuit Company.
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