During National Nutrition Month in March, remember that snacks can be a very valuable part of your healthy daily eating plan. But if you do not plan right, they can also add many unnecessary calories, sodium, sugar and fat.

If you choose your foods right and carefully, snacking can be a very healthy part of your diet, according to registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy Spokesperson Isabel Maples. For both children and older, active adults, snacks can provide us with nutrients that we may not get in our daily meals.

To ensure that you are snacking healthy, remember these tips:
  • Plan out snacks - Keep healthy and nutrient-rich foods around, such as fresh fruit, whole wheat crackers, low fat pieces of cheese, nuts, yogurt and almonds.
  • Make those calories count - Snack on food that will fill in any nutrient gaps in your daily eating habits. If you think of snacking as mini meals, you will eat more fresh fruit and veggies, as well as low fat dairy and whole grains.
  • Stay away from junk food - One challenge with snacking is the easy availability of chips, soda and candy. They are easy to grab on the go, but they are not healthy choices for daily eating.
  • Snack only when you are hungry - There is a temptation to eat when we are bored, stressed or frustrated. Actually, exercise is a more effective way to deal with these normal human feelings.
  • Keep portions reasonable - Select containers that are single serving, or put a small amount of the snack in a bowl.
  • Drink liquids - Water, fat free milk and 100% juice are great options.

If you make snacking sensibly part of your daily diet, you will be able to stay strong, active and able for years to come.