Snacks can be a good source of low-calorie nutrition if you choose fruits or vegetables. Or they can be a big calorie blow-out if you treat yourself to a big bowl of ice cream or wolf down a big bag of greasy chips.

Most of us like to eat snacks. Sometimes out of habit or boredom, and sometimes because we’re really hungry. If you’re snacking because you’re bored, maybe you should get a hobby, but if you’re snacking because your hungry you should choose a treat that’s healthy and nutritious.

Think of your snack as a mini-meal and keep it balanced by choosing a little protein, a bit of healthful fat, and some carbohydrates from high-fiber breads, crackers, or fresh vegetables and fruits. Keep your portion sizes small, though, if you don’t want to add too many extra calories.

Healthy Snack Ideas

  • Spread peanut butter on six whole grain crackers and serve with one ounce of cheese (about the size of a pair of dice).
  • Cut an apple into bite-size chunks and add them to one-half cup low-fat cottage cheese. Sprinkle one tablespoon chopped walnuts or pecans (and a little honey if you like sweetness).
  • Slice a whole grain pita into six wedges and serve with hummus and a handful of fresh berries on the side.
  • Make a fruit and cheese plate. Slice one apple and one pear, and serve with fresh grapes, whole grain crackers and a few thin slices of your favorite cheese.
  • Combine one cup plain low-fat yogurt with one-half cup blueberries or strawberry slices, and one-quarter cup chopped walnuts or almonds. Add just enough honey to suit your taste.
  • Spread almond butter on a piece of whole wheat toast and add a spoonful of 100-percent fruit spread. Serve with a glass of non-fat milk.
  • Serve olives and marinated red peppers with a piece of warm whole grain bread.
  • Some people choose baby food to eat as snacks and to control portion size. You don’t need to go that far, but choosing small portions helps prevent over-eating.
  • Bake your own tortilla chips and serve them with a chunky mango-black bean salsa.
  • Make a bowl of hot oatmeal and serve with a sliced banana, one-half cup berries and a splash of non-fat milk.
  • Have a small salad with spinach leaves, broccoli florets, tomato slices and top with one-quarter cup shredded cheese and one tablespoon of your favorite dressing.

If you really want to splurge on a candy bar, potato chips or a cookie, remember that it’s fine to do that once in awhile (even once a day if you keep within your calorie budget), but keep your portions small — just one cookie or a small candy bar. Keep these not-so-healthy treats to 200 calories or less, which the United States Department of Agriculture calls discretionary calories.

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