Snack your way to good health at USM

Alex Greenlee | The Free Press

Posted on April 22, 2012 in Chiu On This, Sports
By Anna Chiu

We’ve all heard that snacking can ruin diets and promote weight gain through fitness magazines and weight loss shows. Snacking seems to have a bad reputation for dieters and health fanatics.

In a Harvard Medical study, researchers determined that the biggest single contributer to weight gain is the number of snacks people eat per day. In the same study, researchers found that the average American has gone from consuming 3.8 snacks to 4.9 in the past 30 years.

Part of the reason why Americans just can’t get enough of snacking is due to food flavor engineering. Many chip brands such as Kettle combine salty with sweet along with other flavor enhancers to keep you hooked. Ingredients such as autolyzed yeast extract and maltodextrin can be found in most bags of chips. Autolyzed yeast extract is just another name for MSG and maltodextrin is a form of sugar. This symphony of addictive additives in many snacks contribute to weight gain and uncontrollable snacking, which is just a part of the obesity epidemic.

Good health is a choice and snacking is beneficial if you choose wisely. Having a snack keeps you satiated and sustains energy, keeping your metabolism active. Skipping snacks can cause you to overeat at your next meal and can slow your metabolism. Fortunately, there are many snack options that promote good health and are readily available on USM campus.

When I am looking for a healthful snack, I make sure to see that I know and can pronounce the ingredients. Snacking smart keeps your body happy, and USM offers a variety that deserves a gold star:

EDAMAME: Edamame are fresh soybeans and the ideal snack for athletes because of their protein packed punch. One serving of edamame has 17 grams of protein and are high in fiber, keeping you full longer. Edamame has the same benefits of a protein bar but without the excess sugar. It is also very low in sodium and is a good source of thiamin, iron, magnesium and folate.

KIND BARS: Kind bars are a great tasting alternative to sugary-filled snacks such as Nutri-Grain cereal bars. The ingredients are minimal and considered to be low glycemic — meaning that the sugars are slowly released, keeping your energy levels stable.

CLIFF BARS: Ever wonder which energy bar is the healthiest option? With so many different nutrition bars available on campus, the Cliff bars win the title. Cliff bars are 70 percent organic and contain no preservatives or trans fat. They are perfect for active individuals on-the-go and are ideal for sustained energy.

CHOBANI GREEK YOGURT (2 percent fat): Greek yogurt is packed with protein, calcium and contains good bacteria that is essential for our digestive health. Greek yogurt keeps you fuller for longer and has more than half the amount of sodium compared to regular yogurt. It may also help you lose weight by keeping you full on fewer calories.

FRESH FRUIT: Fresh fruit seems like an obvious pick, but they can protect or even improve your health. Whole foods like fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals and also naturally occurring substances that help you ward off illnesses. Apples, oranges and bananas are almost always available and fresh on campus.

CHEESE AND CRACKERS: Cheese and crackers are another great option for a balanced snack. They have a good amount of fat, protein and carbs to keep your energy up for hours. This snack can be found in the refrigerated section and usually comes with pepperoni. Skip the pepperoni that’s very high in sodium and contains difficult-to-pronounce additives.

SABRA HUMMUS/PRETZEL DIP: Hummus is a nutritional powerhouse — they are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and are a great source of iron, vitamin B6, manganese, copper, folic acid and amino acids. Hummus is traditionally made with a combination of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice. Sabra’s one serving containers are a great snack that will surely satisfy your taste buds.