If you are trying to follow a healthy diet, you have to pay special attention to the snacks you choose. Grabbing a snack cake or some chips may be your first choice, but these foods aren't usually healthy. If you eat these types of snacks, you may end up consuming too many calories and not getting enough of the nutrients you need.
Healthy snacks are low- to moderate-calorie snacks that provide nutrition. High-calorie foods generally aren't healthy snacks. A high-calorie food, according to the Food and Drug Administration, is a food that contains 400 calories or more per serving. Some examples of low- to moderate-calorie foods that are healthy include fruits, yogurt and prepackaged reduced-calorie snack packs, such as 100-calorie snack packs. Examples of unhealthy, high-calorie snacks include an ice cream sundae or a large slice of cake.
Snacks with a lot of salt are unhealthy. You should consume no more than 2,300 mg of salt daily and some snacks, such as salted chips, can put a big dent in this budget. Baked chips without any added salt and plain popcorn are healthy snacks that don't usually have too much salt. Sugar is another additive to pay attention to, as it can make an otherwise healthy snack unhealthy. Fruit, for example is healthy, but if you buy canned fruit that has added sugar or is packaged in syrup, it makes it less healthy.
How you prepare your snacks can make the difference between an unhealthy snack and a healthy one. Fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy snacks, but if you fry them, they become unhealthy. Snacks that contain a lot of butter or other high-fat or high-calorie condiments aren't healthy. For example, a boiled egg is a healthy snack. If you add regular mayonnaise to make an egg salad sandwich, your snack becomes unhealthy because of the fat in the mayonnaise. However, if you add less than 1 tbsp. of mayonnaise made with olive oil to your egg to make egg salad, it is still healthy, as you need a small amount of healthy oil in your diet each day.
Many foods have full-fat and reduced-fat or fat-free versions. Generally, the less fat in the snack, the healthier it is, but because some fat-free products contain sugar and other unhealthy ingredients to enhance the flavor, reading the nutrition label is vital. For example, cheese with whole-grain crackers is a healthy snack as long as you use reduced-fat cheese. Full-fat cheese contains too much saturated fat, while and fat-free cheese may contain added sugar and salt.
- Snack Plate image by Paul Moore from Fotolia.com