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Health Care

Tips for Healty Snacks

By Valerie Spier

Palo Alto Medical Foundation

Snacks can be an important part of a nutritious and balanced diet, but you do need to be thoughtful about the quality and quantity of snacks. It’s very easy to overdo it, and too many snacks can easily derail efforts to maintain a healthy weight.

Healthy snacks can benefit you in several ways. They can:
• Help meet energy needs, especially for children and athletes
• Round out the daily nutrients you need to stay healthy
• Bridge the gap between meals (if you are allowing about six hours between meals)
• Help prevent low blood sugar and overeating

What is a Healthy Snack?

A healthy snack is a small amount of food or a beverage (approximately 100 to 150 calories) you have between meals. Include any beverages toward your daily calorie count, as many specialty coffee drinks and smoothies are packed with sugar and calories.

To help pick the right snacks, start by looking at your diet and what you eat every day to help you determine nutritional gaps. Most people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables; choosing a snack from that food group is always a good option.

Here are some healthy snack ideas (that all contain about 100 to 150 calories) from the five food groups to help you balance your nutritional needs:

Dairy (to meet calcium needs): glass of milk, kefir, almond or soy milk; flavored yogurt; cottage or ricotta cheese with fruit or veggies; one portion of low-fat string cheese; Parmesan cheese crisps (grated cheese, baked in the oven), kale chips or edamame

Fruit: fruit kebab; one small piece of whole, seasonal fruit; two tablespoons of dried fruit; unsweetened applesauce, 4 to 6 ounce fruit smoothie or dehydrated fruit crisps

Vegetables: raw or roasted vegetables; one cup of vegetable or minestrone soup; endive or lettuce wrap; veggie smoothie (limit add-ins); salad or pickled vegetables (quantities for veggie snacks: unlimited non-starchy vegetables, half a cup of starchy vegetables)

Carbohydrates/starch: one cup of quinoa or other grain-based salad; cup of butternut or corn soup; wasabi peas or spicy garbanzo beans; half-a-cup of oatmeal; three cups of air-popped popcorn; three falafel; one serving (15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates) of whole-grain crackers

Protein: one hard-boiled egg; 1 to 2 ounces of leftover meat, fish or poultry, beef or turkey jerky, canned tuna, sardines, oysters or kippers; a handful of nuts or seeds; a cup of bean or lentil soup or marinated tofu (check serving size on package to limit to 100 to 150 calories)

For beverages, choose unsweetened options such as herbal or green iced or hot teas, sparkling water or water flavored with a slice or fruit or cucumber to help keep your calorie intake on track.

Avoid the snack attack

How can you make sure you snack sensibly, not mindlessly?

The best approach is to think about whether you really need a snack.

Before you just grab a snack, determine if you are really hungry. For example, you might think you want something to eat but are actually thirsty. Try drinking an unsweetened beverage first. Or you might be bored or stressed. Consider going for a quick walk outside, do a couple of stretches or deep breathing if you are at work or enjoy a chat with a friend before eating something.

Shopping ahead for healthy snacks and stocking the fridge with cut-up, prepared fruits and vegetables for easy access is also a good plan. Make tea or fruit-flavored waters and have them ready in the fridge to drink.

Combining a carbohydrate-containing food with a low-carb food, such as eating an apple with a piece of cheese, is a great way to enjoy a healthy snack that will help keep you feeling full longer. Avoid traditional snack foods such as chips that are high in calories but low in nutritional value.

Valerie Spier, MPH, R.D., CDE, is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation

Palo Alto Medical Foundation

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) for Health Care, Research and Education is a nonprofit health care organization that is a pioneer in the multispecialty group practice of medicine. PAMF has partnered with patients and the community to provide expert, compassionate, patient-centered care and health innovation since 1930 and is part of the Sutter Health network of care, one of the nation’s leading nonprofit networks of community-based health care providers. PAMF’s nearly 1,500 affiliated physicians and 5,000 employees serve nearly one million patients at 50 medical centers and clinics in Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Contra Costa counties. For more information, visit

Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital

Stanford Children’s Health, with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at its core, is the largest Bay Area health care enterprise exclusively dedicated to children and expectant mothers. Long recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s best, the hospital is a leader in world-class, nurturing care and extraordinary outcomes in every pediatric and obstetric specialty, with care ranging from the routine to rare, regardless — of a family’s ability to pay. Together with Stanford Medicine physicians, nurses and staff, services can be accessed through partnerships, collaborations, outreach, specialty clinics and primary care practices at more than 65 locations in Northern California and 100 locations in the U.S. western region. As a nonprofit, Stanford Children’s Heath is committed to supporting the community – from caring for uninsured or underinsured kids, homeless teens and pregnant moms, to helping re-establish school nurse positions in local schools. The hospital is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2016. For more information, visit

Stanford Health

Stanford Health Care is creating new delivery models, leveraging advanced resources to create seamless continuity of care for every patient. From virtual care services to primary care office throughout the Bay Area, outpatient clinics in Redwood City and Palo Alto and our future Stanford South Bay Cancer Center – people from around the region and around the world turn too Stanford Health Care of comprehensive solutions to all of their health care needs. For more information, visit

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