Challenge Three That Snack Attack

At the office, in the car, by the television set or computer, at a sports event, in the movie theater— snacking is part of American life. We often chide ourselves for between-meal nibbling, often with good reason. Too often, people snack mainly on energy-dense, low-nutrient foods, then skimp on nutrient-rich foods at meals—or perhaps overdo on calories.

Calcium is a case in point. Compared with moderate snackers, research suggests that people who frequently consume a lot of soft drinks and sugary snacks tend to take in less calcium. Likely, they're substituting these foods for calcium-rich Milk Group foods.

Carefully chosen, sensible snacks can be a key strategy for following food-group guidance from MyPyramid. They can supply nutrients that often come up short, including calcium, as well as fiber, phytonutrients, and other health-promoting food sub-stances—without adding too many calories, added sugars, or solid fats. If you haven't eaten for three or more hours, a snack may even help bring up your blood sugar. For those higher-calorie snacks, choose them to fit as "extras," within your discretionary calorie allowance. See "Extra Calories: Spend Wisely within Your Budget!" earlier in this chapter.

For children and teens especially, snacks can supplement meals. Because their stomachs are smaller, children may need to eat more often than adults do, perhaps every three to four hours. Physically active, growing teens may need the added calories that snacks supply. For more about snacking for kids and teens, refer to "Healthful, No-Cook Snacks for Kids" and "Great Snacking!" in chapter 16. Adults may enjoy a snack break to satisfy mid-day hunger. Older adults with small appetites or limited energy may find several small meals easier to handle. And many enjoy the social value of snacking with others.

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