Calorie Counts and Nutrition Facts

Snacks and Drinks

Snacks and Drinks Nutrition Facts

Snacks are those small amounts of food you eat between regular meals. They can be good for you when you choose nutritious foods and stay within your daily calorie budget, or those snacks can blow your healthy diet out of the water when you eat junk foods and load up on calories.

Benefits of Snacking

Rather than focusing on the bad things that can happen when you eat a snack, let's start with the good things that can happen when you eat snacks:

  • A healthy snack can provide essential nutrients. A small piece of fresh fruit and a handful of nuts will give you lots of vitamin C, minerals, and healthy fats.
  • Choosing a snack that's high in protein and fiber, such as a few whole grain crackers and peanut butter, can keep you feeling full longer, so you don't overeat at your next meal.
  • Plant-based snacks such as fresh veggies or berries will also provide extra antioxidants that may have health benefits.

    Calorie Balance and Over-Snacking

    The biggest thing about snacking is watching your calorie intake. Most healthy snacks aren't too high in calories so you can eat a little more volume if you're feeling extra hungry. However, even some healthy foods are high in calories, so yo need to watch your portions. Nuts, seeds, avocado, and even bananas, are all healthy foods that are little higher in calories.

    Portion size is even more important when you decide to snack on something not so healthy like a cookie or candy bar. It's okay to treat yourself now and then, and if you keep your treats small, you won't load up too many calories.

    Healthy Snacking Guidelines

    It's a good idea to plan your snacks ahead of time, especially for workday snacks. That way you'll have the healthiest foods ready, and you won't have to resort to mindlessly munching on highly processed junk foods you found in a vending machine.

    A typical snack should be balanced, just like a larger meal, so it has some protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Of course, calories matter too, but there isn't one right amount of calories. It all depends on your daily calorie budget and the size of your regular meals and how many snacks you eat. You could probably aim for snacks to be from 100 to 300 calories each. Try some of these healthy combinations:

    • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup berries and a teaspoon of honey
    • 1 cup carrot sticks and 1 or 2 tablespoons hummus
    • 1 fresh pear and 8 to 10 almonds
    • 4 to 5 celery sticks with 1 to 2 tablespoons peanut butter
    • 4 to 5 whole grain crackers with 1 1/2 ounce cheddar cheese
    • 1 slice of whole grain bread, toasted, with 2 teaspoons each of almond butter and grape jelly
    • 1 snack bar and a glass of non-fat milk
    • 1 cup air-popped popcorn 
    • 1/2 cup grapes and 1 1/2 ounces Swiss cheese

    Does Timing Matter?

    It might make a difference when you eat your snack. If you're getting ready for a workout, you might want to eat a snack 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising. If you prefer bedtime snacks, then eat about 30 to 40 minutes before bedtime, preferably something with more carbohydrates and less protein and fat.

    Otherwise, try to time your snacks so that you're hungry, but not so hungry you eat more than one serving of your snack.

    Factoring in Drinks

    The beverages you choose during the day can have a big effect on your daily calorie count and nutrient intake. You definitely need plenty of fluid every day, but if you don't pay attention to what you're drinking, you can load up on empty calories fast.

    Proper daily hydration is essential for your health. It's not exactly clear how much water you need every day because it can change with physical activity levels, weather, altitude and your current health condition, but current recommendations are about 91 ounces of water for women and 125 ounces of water for men each day.

    About 20 percent of that water will come from the foods you eat, but the rest comes from the beverages you drink.

    Healthiest Drink Options

    Water is probably the healthiest option since it doesn't have any calories. Low- or non-fat milk is a good choice because it provides calcium you need for strong bones. Fruit and vegetable juice can be good, too, but you need to choose 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice and keep an eye on those calories. Fruit juice can be as high in calories as sugary soft drinks.

    So what about soft drinks? You have a few choices here. Regular soft drinks are sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup which adds lots of calories but no additional nutritional value. Diet soft drinks are either low in calories or have no calories so that they won't hurt your diet. Some people prefer not to consume artificial sweeteners, but you can find soft drinks sweetened with natural non-nutritive sweeteners like stevia.

    Coffee and tea also count as beverages. AS long as you don't add milk, cream or sugar, you won't have to worry about calories.

    And even though coffee and tea contain caffeine, they still provide water. Of course, if you're sensitive to caffeine, you can find decaf coffee or switch to herbal tea.

    How to Get More Water into Your Day

    One common piece of advice is to drink water when you feel thirsty. It's probably a good guide, but as you age, you may lose some of the thirst mechanism. Here are some ways to keep your water intake up:

    • Keep water next to your bed. If you wake in the night, you can take a few sips. 
    • Carry a water bottle with you when you travel.
    • Don't like the taste of water? Add flavoring with calorie-free flavoring drops or slices of fresh fruit or cucumber instead of grabbing a soft drink.
    • Drink a glass of water before each meal.
    • Also, drink water before you exercise, and every 5 to 10 minutes during your workout.

    What About Alcohol?

    A little alcohol may have some health benefit, but it doesn't add to your daily water tally.  Studies suggest that a drink or two may help with your cholesterol levels and heart health, but heavy drinking raises your risk of several health problems.

    If you don't currently drink, there's no health reason to start. If you do like your adult beverages, don't overdo it. Learn more about the health effects of heavy drinking.

    Sources:

    Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020."

    The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division. "Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate." February 11, 2016. 

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