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To snack or not to snack? Get the lowdown on healthy eating between meals

You just got home from running errands. It’s too early for dinner, but you’re feeling peckish. A voice in the back of your mind might be saying, “Stop! You’ll ruin your dinner!” But there’s a bag of potato chips sitting on the counter calling your name. What do you do?

Family physician Dyllan Tiburzi, MD, of Beacon Medical Group Cleveland Road

Family physician Dyllan Tiburzi, MD, of Beacon Medical Group Cleveland Road, shared some things to keep in mind before the next time you reach for a snack.

Look at your overall food intake and needs.
Whether or not snacks are a good idea depends partly on what else you’re eating over the course of a day. If your portion sizes at regular meals are small, snacks make more sense. Your amount of activity matters, too.

“Individuals who are very active may need the additional sugar stores to help get them through their day,” Dr. Tiburzi said.

Another thing to keep in mind is whether you have any health issues that can lead to low blood sugar. If you do, snacks can be an important part of your daily routine.

Watch out for weight gain.
For adults trying to manage their weight, snacking opens the door for added calories to sneak into your diet.

“Sometimes a snack can be seen as harmless given the small portion sizes, but over time, they can build up,” explained Dr. Tiburzi. He added, “I know that I personally don’t feel as guilty about having two or three snacks at a time because of the portion size when really I should stick with one.”

Stick to smaller portion sizes.
Because it’s so easy to overeat when snacking, it’s important to pay attention to the size of your snacks.

“My snack is typically an apple, and I would say that around the size of an apple or a clenched fist would be an appropriate snack size,” advised Dr. Tiburzi.

Beware of convenience.
Many snacks are manufactured to be convenient, like potato chips and pretzels.

“However, a lot of the snacks that are convenient are oftentimes high in carbohydrates and sodium. That can be more harmful than beneficial, despite how good they taste,” Dr. Tiburzi said. “Snacks high in sodium and sugar can exacerbate potential health issues like heart disease or diabetes,” he added.

So, what makes for a good snack? To avoid added salt and sugar, and to ensure you’re getting nutritional value as well as satisfying your hunger, fruits and vegetables are a healthy choice. Dr. Tiburzi also suggests whole-grain snacks or cheese sticks.

“Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I cheat and have something sweet or salty, but I try to limit these as much as possible,” he said.

Many of us have very busy lives, and it’s tempting to grab a quick bite to sustain your energy throughout the day. Just aim for choices that work with your body and support your long-term health goals.

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