Choose healthy snacks to improve your health

You hungry? Maybe it’s time for a snack.

If you’re about to scarf down a candy bar, hit the drive-thru, raid the refrigerator or stroll through the nearest quickie mart for snacks, stop right there.

It’s time for a little eat-this-not-that conversation.

Snacks can make or break your diet

A recent study found that eating highly-processed snacks is a recipe for weight gain and other health problems. No surprise, right?

Most adults don’t eat healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables. Survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that:

  • Only 12 percent of adults eat enough fruit per day (1.5 to 2 cups)
  • Only 9 percent of adults each enough vegetables per day (2 to 3 cups)

Choosing healthier snacks can help you manage your weight and lower your risk for chronic disease. If you’re not eating enough healthy snacks, what are you going to do about it?

Tip: Track your food choices and calories with a mobile app. Use the FitLyfe platform to view your progress, make healthier meal and snack choices, manage your weight, and improve your health.

Time for a snack: Choose, but choose wisely

What are your go-to snacks when you get a craving? If its chips, cookies, candy bars, soda, pastries, and fast food, you’ve got some work to do.

Research shows that people who eat a lot of these snacks tend to eat at least 500 calories more per day than people who eat healthier snacks. That might not sound like much, so consider this:

  • 3,500 calories – That’s how many extra calories you’d consume eating 500 extra calories of snack foods a day for a week. For example, a candy bar and a soda is about 500 calories.
  • 1 pound of fat – is about 3,500 calories. If you’re eating regular meals plus less-than-healthy snacks, you’re probably eating more calories than you need. Without more exercise and better food choices, you’ll gain weight.
  • 11 hours – Or 660 minutes. That’s about how much brisk walking you’d need to do to burn 3,500 calories or one pound of fat. Chances are pretty good you don’t have time for 11 hours of exercise a week, right?
Create a healthy-snack habit

When you get a craving for a snack, your brain typically wants four things sweet, salty, crunchy, and fatty.

If you’re used to eating junk food, that’s probably what you’ll go for. It’s why sugary snacks, chips, and desserts taste so good.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. (No, you don’t have survive on kale, rice cakes, and water,) With a little practice, you can satisfy those cravings and create a healthy-snack habit. Plan ahead and stock up on healthy snacks. When a craving strikes at work, in the middle of the night, or when you’re on the go, have a plan to grab healthy snacks instead of high-calorie snacks.

Check out these five simple swaps for healthier snacks:

1. Sweet

Eat this: One banana, a cup of strawberries, medium apple, or dried fruit
Not that: Candy bars, milkshakes, pies, and pastries

2. Crunchy

Eat this: Celery sticks with a tablespoon of peanut butter, sliced cucumbers, bell peppers, or carrots
Not that: Potato chips, pretzels, trail mix loaded with candy

3. Salty

Eat this: Whole-grain crackers with hummus, air-popped popcorn seasoned with olive oil and a dash of salt
Not that: Canned soup, processed meals, deli meats, fast food

4. Fatty

Eat this: Hard-boiled egg, string cheese, low-fat Greek yogurt, fish, or nuts
Not that: Pastries, desserts, creamy sauces, ice cream

5. Low-calorie drinks

Drink this: Water, fruit/vegetable smoothie, non-fat milk or soymilk, low-sodium tomato juice
Not that: Soda, energy drinks, alcohol, coffee with added sugar and cream

If you want to improve your diet and your health, eat healthy snacks. You might need to give yourself a little time to retrain your brain to enjoy healthy snacks, but you can do it. Start with one healthy-snack swap a day, then keep improving your diet.

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