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The Healthy Snack Challenge

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For almost anyone trying to watch their weight, choosing healthy snacks can be a challenge. Yet, the bottom line is, we need snacks in a healthy diet. Snacks can provide energy in the middle of the day or when you exercise. A healthy snack between meals can also decrease your hunger and keep you from overeating at meal time.

So what makes a healthy snack? If you are not sure if a snack is healthy, read the Nutrition Facts label. If the calories coming from fat are more than half of the total calories, it is not a healthy choice. Pay attention to the portion size given on the label. It's easy to eat more than this amount. Avoid snacks that list sugar as one the first few ingredients.

Other factors to think about:

—The size of the snack should be the right size, a good balance between enough calories to satisfy you but still not too many. Under 100 calories is a good guide.

—Pick foods that are low in fat and sugar and high in fiber and water. This means an apple is better than a bag of chips.

—Aim for fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain snacks.

—Naturally sweetened is better than foods and drinks that contain added sugar.

Fresh fruit is a healthier choice than a fruit-flavored drink. Foods and drinks that list sugar or corn syrup as one of the first ingredients are not healthy snack choices.

Put snacks in small plastic containers or bags so they are easy to carry in a pocket or backpack. Putting snacks in containers helps you eat the right size portion. Plan ahead and bring your own snacks to work. Avoid junk-food snacks like chips, candy, cake, cookies and ice cream. The best way to keep from eating junk food or other unhealthy snacks is to not have these foods in your house. It's OK to have an unhealthy snack once in a while. Never allowing any unhealthy snacks or sweets may result in sneaking these foods. The key is balance and moderation.

Other tips:

—Replace the candy dish with a fruit bowl.

—Store foods like cookies, chips or ice cream where they are hard to see or reach. Put ice cream at the back of the freezer and chips on a high shelf. Move the healthier foods to the front, at eye level.

—If your family snacks while watching TV, put a portion of the food in a bowl or on a plate for each person. It's easy to overeat straight from the package.

—Information courtesy of the National Institute of Health.

Q and A

Q: Does current research still support eating more fiber as a way to reduce colon cancer risk? If so, does it matter what type of fiber?

A: Yes, each additional 10 grams of dietary fiber per day is linked with a 10 percent decrease in risk of colorectal cancer, according to the latest Continuous Update Project report from the American Institute for Cancer Research, which is an ongoing analysis and updating of research.

We used to think that the colon cancer protection came only because of how fiber can affect carcinogens by speeding their passage and adding bulk to dilute their concentration in the gut. Now we see that fiber can also act as a "prebiotic", supporting growth of health-promoting bacteria in the gut. Studies suggest that changes in diet can produce changes in gut bacteria within weeks. In addition, when fiber slows down how fast carbohydrate is absorbed from the digestive tract, it can lead to slower and lower rises in insulin. This can reduce cancer cell growth that occurs with high insulin levels. Foods supply different types of fiber, and each seems to act in slightly different ways to promote health and reduce cancer risk. By getting dietary fiber from plant foods — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds — you are also getting a variety of nutrients and protective natural compounds. So even the same amount of fiber from fiber supplements won't give you the same benefits as food. Observational studies also show that people who eat diets higher in fiber are more likely to be a healthier weight compared to those who don't eat as much fiber. It's difficult to know for sure how much of the lower cancer risk among people eating more fiber stems from fiber itself and how much comes from other compounds in those foods or from a lower prevalence of overweight. So unless your physician has recommended boosting a specific type of fiber for other medical reasons, aim to include a wide variety of fiber-containing plant foods without zeroing in on any single source.

—Information courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research.

RECIPE

For most of us, school is underway, and that means back to the dinnertime routine. Here is a recipe from Cooking Light's "Fresh Food Fast, 24/7" that is not only healthy but also quick.

Pork Medallions with Cranberry Sauce

1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1/2 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

Cooking spray

Cut pork crosswise into 8 pieces. Place pork between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet. Sprinkle both sides of pork evenly with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan, combine cranberries, broth and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; boil 6 minutes or until berries burst and sauce is reduced to 2/3 cup. Stir in sage. While sauce cooks, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until done. Serve pork with sauce. Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 pork medallions and about 3 tablespoons sauce).

Per serving: 202 calories, 23.8 grams protein, 16.4 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fat, 73.7 milligrams cholesterol, 278 milligrams sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian from Springfield, Ill. For comments or questions, contact her at charfarg@aol.com. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM


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