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Diet & Nutrition | Digestive Health
Chips and salsa

Rethinking Snacks & Comfort Foods: 7 Tips

Get healthy alternatives to time-honored snacks

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The next time you feel like foraging in the cupboard or fridge, consider that mindless snacking can pack on the pounds. Here, Cleveland Clinic registered dietitians team up to offer you seven healthy alternatives to time-honored comfort foods:

1. Crunch time: Rethink chips & dip

Crunching your way through a big bag of salty potato chips, corn chips or cheese doodles will make your fat, calorie and sodium intake skyrocket. Onion or ranch dip adds calories, saturated fat and sodium.

Instead, try 1-ounce snack packs of tortilla, multigrain or baked, reduced-fat potato chips — or measure out one serving in a small bowl. Scoop up salsa (loaded with lycopene and vitamin C, but watch sodium content), hummus (filled with fiber and protein, but make sure there is no added oil) or yogurt-based dip (providing calcium and protein).

Ice cream2. Ice cream: Find a better way to chill

A big bowl of ice cream seems like a great way to treat yourself. The bad news is that it’s high in saturated fat, sugar and calories.

Instead, try an all-fruit frozen bar, ½ cup of low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt, or sugar-free popsicles or fudge bars. Make your own treat by stirring blueberries or raspberries into fat-free yogurt and freezing. Or try frozen grapes. If you must have the real thing, go out for a single scoop — or better yet, a small soft-serve cone. Stick to chocolate, vanilla or strawberry (forget rocky road or cookies and cream) and then take a 30-minute walk.

3. PB&J: Time for an upgrade

Talk about a comfort food — peanut butter and jelly sandwiches take us straight back to childhood! Peanut butter has fiber, protein, B vitamins and monounsaturated fats, but it’s high in calories. Store brands have added sugar and salt. Traditional white bread has little nutritional value, and jelly is 100 percent sugar.

Instead, try spreading just 2 tablespoons of all-natural peanut butter (no added salt, sugar or oils) or almond butter on whole-grain bread. Sweeten with sliced bananas or strawberries, or with 1 tablespoon of pure fruit spread, or drizzle with a teaspoon of honey. Or forgo the bread entirely, and spread natural peanut butter on apple slices.

4. Thirsty? Get tough on soft drinks

Pop open a can of soda when you’re thirsty, and you’ll feel refreshed. But you’re basically drinking sugar water with zero nutritional value. For a healthier alternative, try making a juice spritzer. Add a splash of soda water, diet ginger ale or diet lemon-lime soda to half a cup of 100 percent grape, orange or cranberry-blend juice with ice. Or cool off with diet tonic water and a wedge of lemon. Better yet, try water — it truly is “the real thing!”

Cake5. Cake cravings: Take on your sweet tooth

Leftover birthday cake just begs to be eaten. Store-bought cakes are high in sugar, saturated fat and trans fat (especially that fabulous buttercream frosting).

Try baking homemade angel food or sponge cake, then dressing it up with a fruit topping or spreading fruit-flavored “lite” yogurt on top. Or choose to limit the damage by ordering a single decadent piece of cake at a restaurant and sharing it. Having a party? Send extra dessert home with your guests or toss it.

6. Starved? Build a better sandwich

Old-fashioned bologna-and-cheese sandwiches, typically made with white bread, are high in fat, saturated fat and sodium. Bologna and other processed deli meats also contain preservatives and other agents linked to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Instead, buy low-fat, reduced-sodium turkey, chicken or lean beef slices, or water-packed tuna. Place them on whole-grain, rye, pumpernickel, light or thin-sliced bread. Top with reduced-fat cheese, avocado slices, lettuce, spinach leaves, alfalfa sprouts, shredded carrots, or thin-sliced apple or cucumber for extra vitamins, nutrients and fiber (plus moisture, flavor and crunch).

Sandwich spread7. Condiments: Get creative

Slathering sandwiches with ketchup, mayo or butter only adds unwanted fat and/or sugar. But don’t settle for a dry sandwich — try mustard (experiment with flavored and hot varieties), hummus without added oils, low-fat olive- or canola-oil-based mayo or sandwich spreads, or low-fat cream cheese.

Maxine Smith, RD, LD, Outpatient Nutrition Therapy; Julia R. Zumpano, RD, LD, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation; Kathleen McLaughlin, RD, LD, Inpatient Nutrition Therapy; and Andrea Dunn, RD, LD, CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator), provided these nutrition tips.

Tags: diet, healthy diet, healthy living
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  • Un Paysan

    Throughout your advocacy you stand shoulder to shoulder with the industrial food system and industrial farming.  

    You do not talk about how food is produced.  Was the beef produced naturally–that is, on grass and forage.  Was the WHOLE milk produced by cows on pasture; by cows not being treated with hormones and antibiotics?  

    Were the eggs produced by pastured hens?  

    What is it with you folks who seem to believe that a prescription drug, a processed food, a gimmick or just plain eating of uninteresting food and denying pleasure at the dinner table is the answer to health issues.  

    Dietitians, nutritionists and nurses are taught by dietitians, nutritionists and nurses who use text books written by the same kinds of people.  

    You suggest a frozen fruit bar instead of ice cream.  Why?  What is the source of the fruit?  Guatemala perhaps.  What is the nutrient density of the fruit?  How was it sweetened, frozen, stabilized?  Most likely no one knows.  How many days elapsed between harvest and processing?  Fruits and vegetables lose nutrients during this time.  The spinach you folks suggest we eat may be nine or ten days old if it is purchased in the grocery store.  It will have lost 50% of its nutrition.   

    Do you ask about the soil in which fruits and vegetables are raised?  No.  Yet soil scientists have found that fertilizers used in industrial production can not create nutrient dense food.  Only nutrient rich soil can produce nutrient rich food.  

    A reasonable portion of ice cream made with pasture produced egg yolks, pasture produced whole milk and a small amount of natural sugar is much safer and more nutrient dense that the fake fruit bar from Guatemala.  

    I continue to be amazed, no appalled, with the medical community’s inability to make the connection between food on the table and food on the farm.  

    On the other hand when one realizes that research and funding often come from industry it is easy to see why many in the medical community earn their livings in the world’s oldest profession.     

    • mrfcobf

      Just a guess, but I would say they’re starting small so that they don’t lose people after the first paragraph. Pick and choose battles in order to get people listening. Then, once they’re tuned in, start moving along…

    • Dillonvale64

      Man, you need to chill a little. No one article can answer every question and solve the world’s problems. I frequent this site often. There are tons of articles hear advocating exactly what you are saying. It is easy to troll the Internet until you find something that offends you and then go off on. You accuse the clinic as having biases, but by doing so you expose your own.

    • Eileen Stafford

      Chill out. OMG. Wow.

  • GeorgeBMac

    Like Un Paysan, I am uneasy about this article… It just feels to be off the mark in some way. For instance, It comes down on Peanut Butter & Jelly but advocates using lunch meats (aka pink slime) and cream cheese… True, the white bread and high fructose corn syrup used with the 1950’s style P&J can be improved on — but it’s still better than pink slime and cream cheese…
    It sounds like it was pulled from a “woman’s magazine’ advocating the latest fad
    diet rather than registered dieticians… For comparison, there is another recent article from the Cleveland clinic talking about what their dieticians eat themselves. It sounds NOTHING like what is in this article.

  • Judee Hill

    Why not give some samples for people who are already ill? I’m in renal failure & was advised not to eat what you have recommended here. . White bread is fine, for example, but high fiber is not. This sounds like it’s good for all, but it is not.