FOOD    |   9.3.15   |  Julie Rhodins

When most of today’s moms grew up, they didn’t snack as much as what today’s culture promotes.  But all that has culturally changed in the U.S., with close to 50% of Americans saying they aren’t concerned anymore about spoiling their dinner by snacking.  But does snacking cause us to gain or lose weight?  Does it help keep our energy up?  And is it a good or bad habit to instill in our kids?  We’ve got some answers for you, as well as quick healthy after school snacks to make.

Read on for tips and quick snack ideas 

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Does snacking cause us to gain or lose weight?

Most experts will say that the vast majority of snacking causes people to gain weight, mostly because they are consuming high-fat, high-calorie, high-sugar, low-nutrient snacks.  And while these same people are adding poor snack calories, they aren’t cutting down on the calories at meals nor are they exercising enough.  The result is weight gain for most people.  You have to be a conscious snacker in order to not gain weight.

Connecticut-based Nutritionist Ilyse Schapiro, R.D. at asks people to not graze.  “The most common pitfall when it comes to snacking is mindlessly eating and not paying attention to how much you’ve consumed.”

Does snacking help keep our energy up?

If you are going to snack, then focus on limiting how much and being picky on what kind.  Certainly whole food fruits and veggies with a small amount of protein can fuel energy.  And with daily exercise and portion control at your major meals, the snacking probably won’t be a problem.

Says Susan Bowerman, RD, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition at —

When done right, [snacking] keeps your energy levels up and gives you more opportunities to get in all your nutritional needs.

Is snacking good or bad for your kids?

It depends on how it’s managed.  Manage good snacking by setting portion limits and also by only having available healthy choices.  Make smart choices about when you snack, as well.

Visual limits are effective.  For example, avoid putting out a whole bowl full of snacks.  Instead, have the visual portion be only a handful, or limited portions on a small plate, or the one fruit with the one cup of milk.  A presentation that will show a limit, versus the mindless eating, is good.

As your children get older, point out why you offer only certain kinds of snacks so that they can learn about how healthy choices affect their energy and their bodies.

raisins and nuts are a quick healthy after school snack to make

This homemade trail mix on top of greek yogurt is a great example of a healthy, portion-controlled snack, with raisins, blueberries, slivered almonds, and pistachio nuts.  Photo: Instagram / keeping.up.with.the.dietitian

Also, according to an American Dietetic Association study, it was found that those who snacked before lunch had a tendency to gain more weight.  While those who snacked in the afternoon did not experience that effect and tended to eat more fiber, fruits, and vegetables.

Bottom line — eat a balanced breakfast, don’t snack before lunch, have a limited-but-healthy and balanced snack with a fruit or veggie in the afternoon to help keep up energy, no snack after dinner, and exercise at least 5 days a week.  

Quick Healthy After School Snacks to Make

Here’s a quick list of snacks to pair for fiber, fruit and veggie, and protein — a healthier, energy fueling combo for snacking.  It’s also easy to make these snack choices visually limiting.

  • apple + cup of skim milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins + 6-8 raw almonds
  • hummus spread on 2 large low-fat wheat crackers (like Wasa Multi Grain Crispbread) + 4-6 carrot sticks
  • smoothie with 1/2 cup zero fat greek yogurt + 1-2 fruits + water (you can blend this in the morning and give it a quick stir in the afternoon)
  • 1/2 cup cold or warm edamame (= whole protein + veggie)
  • 1/4 cup hummus + handful of cut veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, snow pea pods, bell pepper slices)
  • banana + cup of skim milk
  • 3/4 cup homemade healthy trail mix (pre-portioned in a small container)
  • 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds + 1 fruit
  • 2 slices of cheese + 6-10 grapes
  • 1-2 cups of low-fat popcorn + 4-6 carrot sticks
  • watermelon slice + 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt

What are your favorite, healthy snacks for kids?

Here’s also more on choosing snacks in a seasonal way 

FIND MORE: schoolvegetables, fruits