How to Choose Healthy, Nutrient-Rich Snacks

National Nutrition MonthBy: Donna Gitt MA, RDN, CDN

March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme is to “Go Further with Food!”

This message comes with a lot of different meanings, from stretching your family’s food budget, to eating and hydrating for a big race, to starting your day with a good healthy breakfast. Connecticut Children’s nutrition team chose to focus our National Nutrition Month message on what it means to fuel the body with appropriately portioned, nutrient dense (lots of vitamins and minerals without a ton of calories) snacks.

Food is the fuel that keeps us going through the day like gasoline that makes our cars work. But, not all foods or fuels are created equal. By choosing nutrient dense fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and poultry, or low fat dairy products for snacks instead of processed and packaged foods we can go further with the food we eat. Think of these foods like the high test fuel that goes into the sports cars at the Indy 500! These foods will give you and your kiddos energy, and keep you fuller longer because of their natural protein and fiber.

In addition to choosing the best fuel for our bodies, we also need to be mindful of the amounts that we eat, so that we don’t overfill the gas tank (this isn’t good for you or the car!). When preparing your snack, use household measures or hand symbols to judge your portion size before you eat it. For example, have a fist full (1 cup) of raw fruits and veggies with 2-3 tablespoons of your favorite dip, or a handful (1/2 cup) of whole grain crackers with a thumb tip portion (1 teaspoon) of peanut butter or avocado.

If you are eating something from a box or package, look at the nutrition facts panel to see the amount in a serving size, and try to keep your serving at 200 calories or less. See below for a list of our team’s favorite kid and adult friendly 200 calorie or less snacks.

And, if you want to learn more about some of the other topics that fit into the “Go Further with Food” theme, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ National Nutrition Month webpage for helpful handouts and tasty recipes that you and your children will love!

Snack Ideas under 200 Calories

  • 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds and 1 cup cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumbers with 3 tablespoons hummus
  • ½ cup of fat free pudding and 1 cup of grapes (25)
  • 6 Reduced-Fat Triscuits and 1 stick of string cheese (part-skim mozzarella)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries and ½ cup low-fat (1%) cottage cheese
  • 1 hard boiled egg and a medium apple
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter and 2 large rice cakes (unflavored)
  • 3 cups air-popped popcorn (with herb seasoning) and 3 clementines
  • ½ to 1 cup* low-fat or non-fat yogurt and 1 cup of fresh strawberries halves
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce and 10 almonds, cashews or walnuts
  • 3 thin slices of lunch meat and 1 slice of deli cheese (thin sliced)
  • 2 ounces tuna (packed in water) with 1 teaspoon low-fat mayonnaise mixed in and 12 mini Cheddar Cheese Rice Cake Snacks
  • 1 cup celery with 1 tablespoon peanut butter and 40 whole grain Goldfish crackers
  • ½ small avocado spread onto 1 slice whole wheat toast
  • 18 mini pretzel twists with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 5-ounce tossed salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and ¼ cup fat-free dressing with ¼ cup low-fat shredded cheese on top

*Aim to keep the yogurt serving at 150 calories or less and 10 grams of sugar or less. Examples: Dannon Light & Fit Vanilla Greek Non-fat (5.3 oz), Plain Non-fat Chobani Greek (8 oz.), Dannon Low-fat Plain (5.3 oz), Fage Total Plain 2% Greek (7 oz.), Siggi’s Non-fat Vanilla (5.3 oz)

Learn more about Connecticut Children’s Clinical Nutrition program

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