From The Nutritionist

Kate Williams, RDN
Nutrition Contributor:
Kate Williams, RDN

Can Snacking Really Be a Healthy Habit?




Understanding why people snack is as important as what foods they choose when making dietary recommendations.

I recently visited the National Museum of American History where I explored the FOOD exhibit. The exhibit showcased how American eating habits and food environments changed from the 1950’s to the new millennium. From three square meals to grazing throughout the day, eating habits changed drastically. One display featured an early edition Pringles® canister and pressurized cheese spread in a can. It triggered a lot of memories of snack-filled summer days and after school treats. I still remember grabbing some Pepperidge Farm® Milano® cookies from the snack drawer in my grandparents’ house – a special treat during our visit to Connecticut.

Snacking habits changed over the last century and continue to evolve. While the number of people who report snacking daily hasn’t changed much in recent years, the amount they snack on has.1 A snack is anything you eat or drink outside of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nutrition professionals need to think more about what makes people reach for certain foods and how they can help clients make healthier choices that fit their needs.


Snacking Habits Today

Many people have a snack stash nearby at all times. Moms famously have snacks stuffed in their bags and cars, offices have drawers and counters full of goodies, and many of us have multiple snack drawers and cupboards at home. According to What We Eat in America, NHANES 2013-14, most people graze in between meals 2-3 times per day, regardless of how many meals they eat.2 Our environment encourages us to snack with grab and go options readily available in vending machines, grocery stores, gas stations, and even home improvement stores. All of this adds up to a lot of extra food available, and potentially calories, compared to a few decades ago.

Are we hungrier than a century ago? Probably not, but hectic schedules and on-the-go lifestyles make it hard to resist convenience snacking. According to Mintel, frequent grazers say they are too busy to eat a meal or want to treat themselves with something indulgent. Others feel hungry and want to maintain energy levels until their next meal. Food choices and expectations can vary throughout the day, too. In the morning, people tend to look for healthier snacks that will help them sustain their energy. At night, they reach for treats that provide taste and comfort.1


Help People Snack a Little Better

Find Out WHY: Take the time to determine why a person makes a food choice during snacking occasions throughout the day. Do they want to increase energy levels? Use snacks in place of a meal? Understanding their motivations and expectations is important to helping them make better choices.

Consider Convenience: Convenience drives many snacking decisions. Help your clients make better snacking choices by suggesting products that help them fit in more fruits or vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein without a lot of preparation. Try new, convenience snack options like nut mixes, whole grain pretzels, or Well Yes!® Sipping Soups.

Address Cost Barriers: Consumers report that cost is a significant barrier to eating more fruits and vegetables. However, many fruits and veggies are similar in cost, per portion as snack foods. Remind your clients that fresh, frozen, dried, and 100% juice can help them fit more fruits and vegetables in their diets. Suggest 100% Vegetable Juice as a satisfying snack to help tide them over between meals without a lot of calories.

Suggest a Snack Upgrade: Sometimes it is easier for people to think about simple swaps they can make for their snacks rather than changing their habits entirely. Check out our new handout for suggestions on how your clients can upgrade their next snack.

Know What’s in the Market: The Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo is right around the corner and a wonderful venue to explore what is new and up-and-coming in the world of snacking. Request samples, coupons and network with health professionals in the food industry.


Snack with Purpose,

Kate


Kate's Bio

Kate received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of nutrition-related practice areas including clinical nutrition, weight management counseling, health and wellness and nutrition education. Kate has worked as a nutrition consultant to the Campbell Soup Company since 2005.


References

  1. MINTEL SNACKING MOTIVATIONS AND ATTITUDES, US, MAY 2017. Reviewed July 2018.
  2. What We Eat in American, NHANES 2013-14 Accessed July 2018.

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En Papillote Technique

1. Prepare the parchment paper
Get a large piece of parchment paper, approximately 2.5 times as large as a single portion of food. Cut the paper into a heart shape, lightly brushing one side with oil. This creates a slight barrier to water, preventing the paper from becoming soaked too quickly. Another option, though not as attractive, is to use tin foil instead of parchment paper.

2. Select the ingredients
This is a very quick-cooking approach, so it works best with tender proteins such as fish and shellfish. The accompanying ingredients, like julienned vegetables (matchstick size), must be small enough to cook at the same rate as the fish. In some cases the vegetables can be blanched, or quickly cooked in boiling water, to ensure proper doneness. Fresh herbs will go a long way in providing flavor.

3. Assemble the packet
Lay the oiled, heart-shaped paper on a baking tray, oiled side up. Season your vegetables with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and half of the herbs. Toss them around for an even coat. Place enough for one portion on half of the paper. Bunch them up to create a bed for your fish, leaving about two inches between the food and the edge of the paper. Place the seasoned fish on the vegetables and sprinkle the remaining herbs. Add a splash of the liquid on top of the fish, just enough to add moisture.

4. Seal the packet
To seal, fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables (so it resembles a teardrop). Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge toward the center. Fold over again to create a seal. Continue along the length of the parchment, folding each section twice. When you get to the point of the heart, twist and fold to finish the seal.

5. Bake your dinner
Bake the packet in a 425°F oven for 10-14 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. The packet will puff and brown while in the oven and as the steam builds. When cooked, remove from the oven and carefully place the packet on a plate. With a knife or scissors cut an "X" on the top and fold back the edges for a dramatic presentation and a delicious, healthy meal.

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Spicy Flounder and Clams with Summer Vegetables

Prep Time: Less than 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-14 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup carrots, finely cut julienne
  • 1/3 cup sugar snap peas, cross cut thinly
  • 1/3 cup zucchini, yellow, finely cut julienne
  • 6 each cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. parsley, fresh, minced
  • Dash salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 6 oz. fillet, flounder (2 fillets, 3oz. each)
  • 2 Tbsp. Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice
  • 3/4 lb. clams, in the shell

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine the carrots, sugar snap peas, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shallot, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, half of the parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss well to combine.
  3. Lightly oil two large heart shaped pieces of parchment paper.
  4. With the parchment paper on a sheet tray, place half of the vegetable mixture in the center of one half of each heart leaving about a 2" border.
  5. Lightly season each fillet with salt and pepper. Fold or roll the fillet to create a uniform thickness and place on top of the vegetables.
  6. Top the fish with the remaining herbs and the Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice.
  7. Place half of the clams around each portion of vegetables and fish.
  8. Fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables so that it resembles a teardrop.
  9. Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge towards the center. Fold over again to create a seal.
  10. Continue with this method along the length of the parchment packet folding each section twice to make an attractive edge.
  11. When you get to the point of the heart twist and fold to finish the seal.
  12. Bake the packets for 10-14 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish).
  13. Remove from the oven and serve by cutting an "X" in the top and folding back the edges.

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories 180, Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 1g, Monounsaturated Fat 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 50mg, Sodium 450mg, Carbohydrate 10g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 4g, Protein 16g.