Snacking Without Snack Fudes

March 2, 2011 in Blog Recipes, Diabetic Menu Item, Health, Nutrition by Joyce Bunderson

Just like many issues in life, snacking can have an upside as well as a downside. Snacking itself is not completely bad or good. It can contribute to well-balanced nutrition or it can contribute to surplus, empty calories, depending on whether you snack on foods or on processed snack fudes. I’ve posted quite a bit of information about snacks and snacking on our Dr. Grandma’s site, but I thought that this post would be a good follow-up for a recently written a piece, Don’t Sell Our Kids Short – Avoid Number Two, about junk food. This post provides a little more info on snacks and how easily they can create a serious imbalance between total food consumption and calories needed to maintain a healthy weight.

What has happened to snacking? Are we over-snacking our children and ourselves? Can we go to any kind of store with fear that we will have a hunger attack and be stranded without food to eat? The car wash? The auto repair? The craft store? Even the hardware store? The sports equipment store is loaded with snacks. The gas station has almost become synonymous with a convenience store for snacks – 95% or more of which are snack fudes. Are we obsessed with snacking? Grocery stores now have aisles of snack foods – not limited by your imagination. If you do sports you can have your rehydration in colors that never existed in nature; and fudes that have little or no resemblance to natural foods that grow in the ground and are harvested. Candy bars disguised as ‘nutrition’ bars and granola bars, are one of my pet peeves. The ubiquitous supply of ‘little nibbles’ (which are no longer ‘little’ or a ‘nibble’); even the marketers advertise in blatant language of ‘ginormous’ – Big Hunk; Big Gulp; Peanut Butter Big Cup; Nutrageous; Jumbo and King-Size chocolate bars; 5 and 10 pound candy bars (I’m hoping this is a joke); and just plain ‘Big’ 7 oz. that look ordinary next to Jumbo and King bars.

As related to candy, I found a nice index on Hershey Bars. When I think back in time, Hershey Bars were right around an ounce; and now when I go to the gas station or ‘one of the snack food centers’ it seems that the bars are always larger. Notice on the Hershey Bar index that the standard bars during the 50’s and most of the 60’s (when I was young) were about an ounce or less. In 1969 they went to 1.5 ounces and didn’t go back to one ounce or below. At the same link you can see the ‘creeping’ on package size for Oreos. I wanted to mention this to illustrate how insidiously calories can sneak into our lives. Portion/serving size does impact our National obesity problem.

Since I’m on the reminiscing track, I should mention that I remember a small glass bottle of soda pop. It was not generally something brought into the home. We’d stop at a gas station where there was a refrigerated, reach-in bin with glass bottles, with a little metal opener screwed onto a wall nearby where you could deftly pry off the bottle cap. The point is that we were enabled to have a sweet soda pop, (6 ounces) as a special treat on a road trip. Now if we want soda, you don’t need to go on an out of town trip; and it’s certainly not considered a ‘treat’ it just a soda. You would probably have a horrible time to find a 6-ounce serving. As you know 12 ounce cans and 20 ounce bottles are standard single servings; that is, if you don’t get the 44-ounce serving at the gas station or convenience store. King size (12 ounces) came out; but I don’t remember it ever being offered to me – it was probably considered to be something to be shared. Now if the term is used at all, it is not applied to 12 ounces.

One ‘Big’ that we should not skip over is ‘Big Soda’ – a term used by activist who recognize that sweetened soda pop industry deserves a ‘soda tax’ because of the huge health costs that are now driven by sweetened soda pop. Coke doesn’t sound so healthy, but Vitamin Water and Gatorade (sugar and water with a few nutrient supplements added) sound like unblemished health food. But, alas, there is no redeeming value in sugar-sweetened soda pop by any name, with or without vitamin additives.

Sports drinks are only needed for activities longer than an hour – water should be the beverage of choice. Need a little flavor, put a little flavorful juice, like pomegranate, lemon, lime or raspberry juice into the water; nice color and taste without lots of sugar and food coloring.

So with so much processed junk, how can snacks fit into a healthy eating style?

On September 10, 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published data showing that we have a long way to go in getting the population of our country to take in at least 2 servings of fruit a day and 3 or more vegetable servings a day. You can compare how your state is doing by both the year and age group. The very best states got up as high as 45% of the fruit and 35 % of the vegetables – put that into servings. That is, at the very best, they ate, on average, less than one fruit serving a day and about 1 serving of vegetables (includes potatoes – so much of the population is getting their one serving though French fries, another victory for unhealthy snacks). The numbers are heart breaking -- literally; it seems that we’re getting the message out that eating fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk for death and disease; and that it plays a role in weight management; but not enough people are rushing to the produce isle. You can see a slight trend, increasing intake in households with higher income; and higher education groups, but it is really not a huge trend. I wonder what we Americans are waiting for.

Remember the Dietary Guidelines; if you want to review what we should eat more of and which foods should appear on our plates less often, just go to Singing ‘Get Off Your SoFAS’ that we posted the first of the month.

Can we use snacks to help make up this difference? Yes, the positive side of snacking is that we can use snack-time, but not snack fudes, as a way to increase our intake fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat dairy, beans, peas, nuts and seafood. At the same time, these foods are more filling than snack fudes, which enhance craving for more. Partly this happens because the blood sugar spikes up, then falls down, sending you looking for more snacks. Partly this overeating is due to the food hedonics design, and the use of sugar, fat, and salt, which induces craving (see Kesler ref). Snacks should help reduce the intake of calories, not the reverse. Remember the obese rats in the junk food study (A Rats-Eye View of the Recent Junk-Food Study). They just kept overeating, and didn’t get up and move even though they knew an electric shock was coming.

The following are ideas for ways to improve ‘snack time’ for both adults and children:

1. Scheduling/Planning a snack

Consider scheduling between-meal snack times. Ad-lib snacking is a large part of the overeating problem and resulting obesity epidemic. Sometimes hunger is not part of the equation – the candy dish on the officemate’s desk; the bored child; the package of chips at the checkout counter, and so on. But if you’re hungry it’s especially difficult; we are far more susceptible to ad-lib eating when we’re hungry.

One of the ways to control excess snack calories is to do more planning. I’m not talking about a plan that says, “I won’t snack between meals.” I suggest putting a positive plan in place. Plan a snack midmorning if you have an early breakfast, especially if you notice that you’re routinely scouting something to nibble, before lunch. It’s a matter of controlling hunger. And as mentioned above, the opportunities are ubiquitous for junk, if you don’t plan.

If you’re hungry, it’s far more difficult to pass the opportunities to indulge.  One example from my life: Years ago, I felt that afternoon snacking was only for the children. When I was cooking dinner for the family I would be very hungry and would be taking bites of whatever I found in the kitchen. Sometimes it seemed as though I had consumed my entire dinner calories while cooking dinner; but, of course, I still sat and ate dinner with the family. Since those years, I’ve discovered that if I have a small snack, like some peanuts or a piece of fruit, I’m in perfect ‘non-munching control.’

2. Use snack time to provide nutrition – not empty calories

Provide real nutrition without excessive sugar, fat and calories. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low/non-fat dairy; nuts, fish, are key to snacking. These foods, in controlled portion, will neither spoil an appetite for real foods later, nor induce overeating the way the fatty, salty processed foods can and do.

3. Consider using fun activities as a reward – not food/snacks.

Don’t get food all mixed up with emotions, any more than it already is. Try to use healthy snacks as an every day way to nourish.

4. Be creative with yourself and your children’s snacks

Getting the children involved, even the little ones; can improve snack time. Maybe create a snack menu before hand, then you and the child can choose from ‘your own individually designed snack menu’; that way there will be less of a chance that ice cream, candy, chips or French fries will be requested.

The following is a list of ideas to stimulate your ‘creative juices’ – Healthy Snack Ideas.

1. Trying to get more fish into your diet?

Consider flaking tuna, salmon or other cooked fish, stirring in some unflavored yogurt, and a little pickle relish if you like it. Then use your fish mixture as a dip for crudités; or filling for hollowed out cucumber chunks, celery, and mushrooms. Use whole-wheat tortillas or flat bread and make roll ups with the fish mixture, with or without vegetables.

2. Yogurt

I love Greek Yogurt, because the protein content is so high and I can get it without the saturated milk fat. The non-fat version is thicker than regular yogurt and creamy too. In the past I’ve listed it as a topping for Dr. Grandma’s Pancakes, but you can use it in unlimited ways. A great way to get dairy; just think of how you would use, cream cheese, sour cream, and regular yogurt. Substitute it for the sour cream, mayonnaise, or yogurt in recipes you have enjoyed in the past. A snack of Greek yogurt and fruit will ‘hang in there’ and get you to the next meal, without driving up your sugar, fat, and salt intake. I should mention if I want it to be a sweet fruit dip, I’d use a little erythritol. Use Greek yogurt to make a delicious vegetable or fruit dip.

3. Fruit Salad

I have noticed that if a fruit salad is available; it almost evaporates into hungry mouths. One trick is to coat the bananas, apples, pears and other fruits that oxidize easily, with a little orange, pineapple, or lemon. The kids (and grandpa) like their bananas, to be nice and white.

Some fruit is so easy to eat; you may have better luck just having it in a bowl. A sack full of the little mandarin oranges, which are often called ‘Cuties’ in the mountain west, can disappear like magic with a few grandchildren around.

Apples, pears, bananas and oranges sometimes seem less like a treat because that’s what is on sale; try rotating the type of fruit to keep it interesting – or make a simple fruit salad. Variety is the spice of life – right?  Grapes, melon, fresh pineapple, grapefruit, peaches, apricots, plums, papaya, mangoes, and berries help keep it interesting. Pomegranates are an unusual fruit, but you may want to do it in a controlled environment – beware of ‘red clothing’. If the berries are a little more expensive, again turn back to a fruit salad.

Dried fruits are especially nice, when packing in a purse or briefcase; maybe mixed with some nuts. One of our grandson’s has an hour bus trip, home from school each day – a zip bag with some dried fruit and nuts would help. Think of raisins, dried banana chips, figs, prunes, dried apricots, dried cranberries (now sold without High Fructose Corn Syrup – Yes!!), and trail mix (preferably without candy). Remember that dried fruit is more calorie dense, because the water is removed, so you can pack in more calories, than eating fresh fruit; but if you compare dried fruit/nuts with chips, puffs, and other fudes, the former are the hands-down nutritional champs.

Another fruit idea is to lightly spray a whole-wheat tortilla with a little vegetable spray and sprinkle with cinnamon and Dr. Grandma’s Delight. Cut into wedges and toast in a toaster oven or broiler for a minute or two.  Dice an apple, sprinkle with Apple Pie spice or cinnamon and Dr. Grandma’s Delight or a little sugar, microwave until the apple is cooked. Use the tortilla wedges as dippers for the ‘apple pie’ dip.

4. Avocados

I put avocados by themselves because we generally have them as guacamole or as a salad ingredient. But if you live in other parts of the world, they are often consumed as fruit (They, of course, are fruit.) I recently learned of a mom who gave her child avocado as a snack food. Although they are higher than other fruits in fat and calories, they are mostly monounsaturated fats (a good type of fat). They are excellent for spreads and dips; and, of course, as ingredients in salads. Unlike most fruit, avocados are a source of protein; and like other fruits, avocados are a good source of fiber and packed with nutrients.

5. Olives

Olives are another fruit with fat. Of course, they are processed and are often salty too. But the type of fat is mostly monounsaturated. A couple of olives added to a veggie snack are a nice addition; plus they’re great to build faces and landscapes for snack projects. The fat – olive oil, is better than the saturated stuff of junk fude, snacks.

6. Nuts

Nuts and seeds are excellent choices that should be included in a healthy diet. Here is a list to inspire your own pre-shopping list creation: Cashews, peanuts (legumes, but often grouped with tree nuts), almonds, walnuts pecans, pistachio nuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Mixing nuts can add a nice touch of variety. The calories and fat are often high, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when you’re deciding about the portion size. Portioning out in snack bags or little cups helps the snacker not to lose sight of how much has been eaten.

Dry roasted peanuts have considerably more sodium than oil roasted; peanuts already are a good source of fat, so oil roasting is not going to significantly change the peanuts.

7. Popcorn

Popcorn is a whole grain; it’s a fun food to eat. It also can travel well, if you cool it off and put it into zip bags. We’re not talking the ‘butter/salt logged’ theater popcorn.

8. Dips

Light commercial ranch dressing (you can even dilute it a bit farther with a little low-fat or skim milk to reduce the calorie density); Greek yogurt and fruit puree; Greek yogurt with savory flavors like curry; hummus; tuna or salmon; and guacamole; ideas to getting your ‘thinking juices’ flowing.

9. Drinks

Let’s start by listing water and skim or low-fat milk. Skip the cola, soda pop, juice drinks and even 100% fruit juice. It’s better to eat the fruit and drink water. If you or your child loves juice, limit it to 6 ounces per day. Often juice has as much sugar as a candy bar. If more juice is desired – water it down. Mix juice and water and serve over ice. Green tea and herb teas are a nice option, especially if you don’t add too much sugar. A little sugar, honey or Dr. Grandma’s Delight (for a natural way to add zero calories) can make a refreshing drink.

I’ve never been a big proponent for smoothies, but if you keep track of how much food is going into the blender and how many servings you are dividing it into, or the children consume, then it can be a healthy choice. It can be a nourishing way to get some fruit and yogurt into the kids. Consider using unflavored yogurt instead of ice cream or sweetened yogurt. Be careful with added sugar, honey, agave or other caloric sweeteners; consider using erythritol or another zero-calorie sweetener. Liquids do not always lead to satiety, so be careful with blended foods.

10.  Muffins

Dr. Grandma’s Muffins Your Way can be made with your favorite, fruit, vegetable, or nuts – they’re 80 calories each before the add-ins, when you make the standard 12 per batch recipe. Don’t forget to use whole wheat flour; the recipe has no added sugar and suggests using extra virgin olive oil. You could call these cupcakes, if that is exciting for the kids; cupcakes that you can feel good about eating and serving to the children.

11. Hummus and beans

Trying to get more beans into your diet? Consider making Dr. Grandma’s recipe for hummus.  Or make some black bean salsa (rinsed canned black beans; cherry tomatoes, sliced in half; scallions, sliced; a little yogurt or oil and vinegar; and taco seasoning).

Edamame Dip – you can also use it as a sandwich spread. (a little limejuice; olive oil, salt; sweetener (Delight) or sugar; and a dash of ground black pepper) food process or blend.  For a switch, try white beans with any hummus recipe.

12. Nut butters

Peanut butter (I like the natural varieties with no added oils and sugar.), almond butter or cashew butter, sesame butter – all are delicious as dips or spreads.

13. Veggie dippers

Red, yellow and orange bell peppers (mild); green bell peppers (have a little more zip than the red, yellow and orange ones); the baby peppers are a nice option; carrots (baby, coins, sticks); celery; broccoli (trees); cucumbers; tomato (cherry and pear are easy to prepare – a quick rinse and you’re ready); mushrooms; jicama; pea pods; radishes; scallions; and cauliflower, come to mind.

You can also use some vegetables by scooping out a bit of the middle like cucumbers, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes and fill with hummus, or nut butter.

14. Fun snacks and Appetizers

Disney Family Fun Snacks and Appetizers – lots of food prep ideas. Cute stuff – try to turn it into something as healthy as it is fun.

15. Snackin’ Cole Slaw


4 cups shredded red or green cabbage or mixed cabbage

1 crispy tangy salad/eating apple, cored and chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1 cup seedless grapes (if too large cut in half)

½ cup carrot, grated

1 tablespoon sugar or zero-calorie sweetener of your choice

¼ cup plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon poppy seeds, if desired

¼ cup orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice


Mix the sweetener, yogurt, seeds, and juices; fold in the other ingredients. Pineapple tidbits or mandarin oranges make a nice variation.

In recognizing the challenges of snacking – where the trouble lurks and which personal resolutions are possible, you’ve taken the first steps. The above ideas can help you slow down on the empty calories and increase the daily nutrient-density of your diet or your child’s diet. You may want to begin to make for yourself, or your child, a – Our Yummy List of Snacks! Once you’ve created your list, you won’t have to spend lots of energy thinking of what will provide a nourishing ‘pick-me-up.’ This might leave you with a little more energy to try to remove snack fudes from your family’s environment, and arrange to dodge them elsewhere. Despite the engineered potential of snack fudes to be tasty and seductive, real food can be yummy and Good Health Can Be Yummy too!