Many people think snacks are junk food, though it doesn't have to be that way. Snacking can be part of a balanced diet. Eating small portions between meals provides your body with energy to keep you going throughout the day.

Some other benefits of snacking:

  • Healthy snacks provide fiber and nutrients your body needs.
  • You can curb the feeling of hunger or starvation right before a meal, which prevents overeating. Snacking may help you eat smaller portions and reduce your calorie intake.
  • Though individual calorie needs vary, your body needs fewer calories as you age.
  • Eating smaller meals more often may help you stay on track.

Try to keep your snack portions small and less than 250 calories. Spacing out meals and snacks can help prevent weight gain. The Nutrition Facts Label on packaged foods will help you figure the calories and nutrients that are in one portion size.

More foods are now being packaged in single serving portions, making it easier for you to keep track of how much you're eating. But you still want to be careful about what kinds of food you choose to snack on!

Sugary and fattening sweets like cookies and candy lack nutrients. Many salty foods – like chips – can dehydrate you. These foods should be eaten in moderation.

For healthy and filling snacks, try:

  • Fresh or frozen fruit, or a handful of dried fruit, such as raisins
  • Raw vegetables – carrots, celery, red and green pepper – cut and portioned in small plastic bags. Try filling celery with peanut butter or low-fat cottage cheese, or dipping your vegetables in low-fat dressing.
  • A whole wheat English muffin with apple butter and a cup of herbal tea
  • A slice of angel food cake with non-fat whipped topping
  • Whole-grain crackers (could be topped with cheese or peanut butter)
  • Non-fat cottage cheese or yogurt with honey
  • A handful of nuts, dried fruit or trail-mix (or make your own mix by buying the ingredients you like
  • Hummus on whole-wheat pita-bread
  • A smoothie (blend nonfat milk and/or yogurt with fruit)

So forget the bag of chips or candy bar and reach for a handful of nuts and raisins. You'll get extra fiber, vitamins, and minerals, all for about 50 calories.

With proper portions and healthy food choices, snacking can enhance, rather than hurt your diet.

AARP Resources

Eating Right When Eating on the Run
Just because you're rushing around, doesn't mean you can't eat healthy.

Planning Simple, Healthy Meals
AARP's checklist of foods to keep on hand to make quick, healthy meals.

10 Power Foods
Food choices that are secret sources of health and energy.

Recipe Guide from AARP The Magazine
Search our database for recipes created especially for AARP members.

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