June 2012 Issue

Smart Summer Snacking — RDs Offer Healthful Alternatives Clients Will Enjoy
By Juliann Schaeffer
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 14 No. 6 P. 32

When it comes to summertime snacking, many clients think of frosty milk shakes, gelati made with frozen custard, and double-scoop ice cream cones topped with whipped cream, M&Ms, or sprinkles to help cool them off in the heat of the day. After all, this is the stuff summer is made of.

But it’s these types of summertime treats that can derail a healthful eating plan clients may have fought so hard to stick with all winter long. The good news is that RDs don’t have to stand on the summer season’s sidelines, watching helplessly as clients waffle over whether to order that strawberry ice cream waffle cone. According to Erika Kaufman, RD, LD, a dietitian at the Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa in Houston, nutrition professionals can help clients maintain a healthful weight and lifestyle during the summer months, and smart snacking strategies are key to achieving that goal.

“Adopting healthful snacking habits sets the right foundation for a healthful lifestyle,” she says. “With soaring obesity rates and the growing number of those developing diabetes, it’s extremely important to be a role model and help those around you develop correct eating habits. According to the CDC, nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, 215,000 are under the age of 20, and 79 million Americans have prediabetes. We can change this statistic by eating healthier and maintaining an appropriate weight for our stature—and snacking plays a significant role in accomplishing this.”

So don’t let the dog days of summer become the downfall of clients’ healthful eating habits. By providing specific snacking tips, you can help ensure clients and their families make better food choices and end the season on a much healthier note.

Snacking Strategies for the Summer Months
While every client’s picture of summer looks slightly different, RDs interviewed by Today’s Dietitian say the challenges they believe hurt clients’ attempts to stay healthy the most relate to scheduling, vacation, money, and convenience concerns.

“Summer camp, vacations, and all those barbeques and the abundance of high-sugar, high-fat foods and beverages associated with these situations add to the challenge of healthful eating over the summer,” says Marie Roth, RD, a natural foods chef, author, and instructor for Blythedale Children’s Hospital & Kohl’s Eat Well, Be Well nutrition program.

No matter how your clients plan to spend the summer months, the following strategies can help them become more mindful about the snacks they eat:

Teach ’em snacking basics. Because many clients are unaware of nutrition fundamentals, give them general guidelines so they have a better idea of what a healthful snack looks like.

“My guidelines for a healthful snack are that it ranges between 100 and 200 kcals and is a combination of carbohydrates like fruits, veggies, or whole grains [for quick energy], and either protein or healthful fats [for staying power],” says Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, a nutrition blogger for SELF magazine.

According to Roth, snacking options have to meet two key requirements before she’ll consider it a healthful food: It has to have quality nutrients and be a whole food.

“Think about the different food groups and which ones you or your children tend to fall short on during meals, then try to incorporate these foods into your snacks,” she tells clients. “For example, most adults and children fall short on vegetables, whole grains, and calcium recommendations, so planning snacks to help meet these needs is a good idea.”

Suggest clients add structure to their kids’ summer break. For school-age children, the final school bell marks the beginning of the summer vacation, the end of nightly studying—and more importantly for parents, the end of their routine, which can throw a curveball to established, healthful snacking habits.

 “For children, the changes in schedules and lack of structure that the school day provides often leads to excessive snacking and calorie intakes,” Roth says. “In fact, recent studies have shown that BMI tends to increase two to three times faster during the summer months than during the regular school year.”

Neighborhood games such as jumping rope, hide and seek, and kickball, once enjoyed by generations past, have been replaced with TV and video games. But incorporating some structure, especially in relation to eating, can help children stay on track.

“Offering meals around the same time each day and scheduling snacks in between to tide them over to the next meal are important strategies,” Roth says. “Without structure, many kids tend to graze on foods constantly throughout the day, which causes them to lose touch with their body’s internal hunger and satiety cues.”

Roth says clients should stock their home with healthful, nutrient-rich foods while limiting the availability of high-sugar, high-fat snack foods and treats. Kids can’t eat empty calories that aren’t there.

“Kids will eat what’s available and easy to grab,” Roth says. “If you have a variety of seasonal fruits and veggies cut up and ready to eat, they’ll eat them. If you have bags of chips and cookies on hand, they’ll eat those.”

Another smart strategy for children is to ensure they eat snacks in the kitchen and away from the TV or computer. “It’s also a good idea to not eat from the bag or package, which can lead to eating larger portions and extra calories,” Roth says. “Instead, portion out the serving on a plate or in a small paper cup.”

For drinkable snack options for kids, Kaufman likes to suggest Horizon’s reduced-fat chocolate milk boxes or fruit smoothies. Parents also can provide frozen treats that are as healthful as they are refreshing to kids who need to cool off from playing outside in the hot sun. “Frozen fruit makes a cool snack,” she says. “And kids love frozen grapes, cherries, and blueberries. Eat them by themselves right out of the freezer or toss on top of yogurt, cottage cheese, or cereal.”

What’s more, parents can accomplish two things when encouraging kids to make their own snacks: They can keep kids occupied while giving them ownership of their own health. “[Suggest clients] make their own fruit smoothies,” Roth says. “Use any leftovers or make an additional batch to freeze as pops. Or try frozen banana pops by dipping half a banana in low-fat yogurt and rolling it in granola or chopped nuts with a popsicle stick as an easy favorite.”

Plan ahead for family vacations. Whether it’s a lack of healthful options at the arcade snack bar or a dearth of choices at the family’s campsite, “vacationing presents a plethora of obstacles,” Kaufman says. But planning ahead can solve this problem.

“Take [healthful snacks] with you from home. Pick easy-to-carry items that can fit into your bag so you can bring them with you,” she says, adding that trail mix, peanut butter crackers, and whole-food nutrition bars are good choices.

Rachel Berman, RD, CSR, CDN, director of nutrition for CalorieCount.com, agrees that planning can mean the difference between high-fat nachos and the more healthful choice of almond butter with whole wheat crackers.

 “It only requires a little education and planning ahead to have healthful snacks on hand,” Berman says. “If you’re not a pro at navigating the beach bar menu, or you know that you’ll be on the go with your kid’s activities, pack snacks ahead of time. Many food manufacturers are coming up with on-the-go versions of things that were never portable before such as peanut butter packets, like Justin’s nut butters, or tuna and chicken in resealable packs, which can be paired with crackers.

“Because of products like these and single-serving product packaging, we can redefine snack food to mean a smaller portion and not necessarily a specific kind of food like chips or candy bars,” she adds.

Whether staycationing at the neighborhood pool or heading to a seaside cottage, Kaufman likes to share standard snacking suggestions to clients taking off for a week or two. “Watermelon and frozen grapes are my favorite,” she says, also noting a veggie plate with a low-fat bean dip or Oikos yogurt with granola as other great options.

Roth recommends clients pack a cooler for transporting healthier options that require refrigeration. “Pack a cooler with healthful snacks and lunches for day trips or long car rides rather than stopping at fast-food restaurants or hitting the snack bar where food items often are laden with salt, sugar, fat, and calories but are low on nutrients,” she says.

Consider cost vs. convenience. Precut apples and prepackaged grapes are great for convenience, but buying these premade snacks regularly can be costly. “It can get expensive to buy ready-made snack options,” Kaufman explains. “Individualized peanut butter packets or presliced apple wedges are pricier than buying in bulk.”

However, if clients are cutting back this summer, remind them that health isn’t a place to sacrifice. If clients take the time to prepare and package their own snacks, they can save on the cost but keep the healthfulness.

“For example, buy a jar of almonds, and when you get home, before putting the jar into the pantry, open the jar and separate the almonds into 1-oz portions in smaller baggies,” Kaufman suggests. “This way, when you’re ready to reach for your snack, you already will have it in [single-size] portions so you won’t need to think about it. It’s just as convenient as having bought the premade packets, and you won’t be as tempted to eat the entire jar.”

Ever hear clients say that incorporating healthful snacks into summer activities just isn’t doable? Bedwell doesn’t buy it. “Many clients complain that healthful snacks just aren’t convenient enough for on-the-go use or road trips, especially in the summer months, as many healthful snacks need to be refrigerated. Also, time in general is a factor as women have more responsibilities than ever before—this is especially true in the summer as women may be caring for children who are on break from school in addition to their other daily responsibilities,” she says.

To eliminate such worries, Bedwell offers clients the following three emergency stash snack ideas:

Trail mix: “Make your own by combining two parts nuts with one part no-sugar-added dried fruit, and put 1/3-cup servings in a plastic baggie,” she says. “Or try one of the new prepackaged options that are already portioned out.”

Apple and peanut butter: “Yes, you can take this with you!” Bedwell says, noting that apples don’t have to be refrigerated, and they travel well. “Many companies sell single-serving packages of peanut butter, which make them very easy to throw in your purse.”

Lean beef jerky and unsweetened applesauce: Bedwell says this combination makes for a great sweet-and-salty combination. “Individually wrapped beef jerky and single-serving containers of applesauce make this an easy snack to keep anywhere—even in your purse,” she says.

Bottom Line
While snacking can be a great way to quell a hot afternoon’s hunger pangs, clients will see the effects of this healthful habit long term.

“It’s important for clients to understand that snacking can help them by keeping energy levels up, refueling after a workout, and preventing them from overeating at the next meal,” Bedwell says. “But it’s also important to eat with their next decade in mind. For women, ‘The Power of Positive Snacking’ forecast study [sponsored by LUNA and authored by the nonprofit research group Institute for the Future] showed that women of all ages, especially those who are or will become pregnant or suffer from a chronic illness, will begin changing their snacking behaviors over the next 10 years to better prepare their bodies for the changes ahead.

“Not only that, but snack choices can help with disease prevention and healthful aging, as well as the habits your children are forming,” she concludes.

— Juliann Schaeffer is an associate editor at Great Valley Publishing Company and a frequent contributor to Today’s Dietitian.


Healthful Snacks by the Numbers
Tell clients about the following list of snacks that are 50, 100, and 200 kcal.

50 Calories and Under
• Babybel Light cheese

• 1/2 banana

• 3/4 cup raspberries

• 5 almonds

• Handful of baby carrots with 2 T salsa

• Bell pepper strips with 1 T hummus

• Celery sticks with one Laughing Cow cheese wedge

100 Calories and Under
• Horizon Part Skim String Cheese

• 1 hard-boiled egg

• 1 mini-snack box of Sun-Maid Yogurt Raisins

• 2 cups of Vic’s Lite Prepopped Popcorn

• Glenny’s Low Fat Soy Crisps (around 15 crisps)

• 1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt with 2 tsp strawberry jam

• 3 cups air-popped popcorn, lightly salted

• 1 Laughing Cow Light cheese wedge with three Triscuits

• 1/2 whole-wheat mini bagel with 1 oz smoked salmon

• 29 pistachio nuts

200 Calories and Under
• 1 container of Fage Total 0% Yogurt with 1/2 banana

• 1/2 cup edamame

• 1/4 cup Bear Naked Pecan Apple Flax trail mix

• 1 small bag of Beanitos Black Bean Chips with Chipotle BBQ

• 1 Quaker Banana Nut soft baked oatmeal cookie

• 1 serving SunRidge Farms Vanilla Chai Raisins

• 6-oz container Fage Greek Total nonfat yogurt, 2 tsp honey, and two chopped walnuts

• Kashi Soft n’ Chewy Banana Chocolate Chip bar

• 3 Lucy’s gluten-free Maple Bliss cookies

• 1 oz prosciutto and four figs

— Snack suggestions provided by Erika Kaufman, RD, LD; Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN; and Marie Roth, RD


Kale Chips

Serves 1

2 cups kale, washed and thoroughly dried
1 to 2 tsp olive oil
Sea salt, for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 275˚F.

2. Remove the ribs from the kale and cut into 11/2-inch pieces. Toss kale with a little olive oil. Lay on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp, turning the leaves halfway through, 15 to 30 minutes. Add a dash of salt and/or pepper (optional). Serve as finger food.

Nutrient Analysis per serving: Calories: 106; Total fat: 4.5 g (depends on the amount of olive oil used); Sat fat: 0.6 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Carbohydrate: 13.4 g; Fiber: 2.7 g; Protein: 4.4 g

— Recipe courtesy of Erika Kaufman, RD, LD


Creamy Chipotle Hummus

Serves 22 (1 serving = 2 T)

4 tsp minced garlic
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
11/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
6 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 T water or liquid from the chickpeas
1 chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, chopped, plus 1 T adobo sauce
100% whole wheat pita, warmed
Raw veggies (such as carrots, celery, etc.) cut into sticks

1. Place first seven ingredients in a food processor and process until the hummus is coarsely puréed. Taste, for seasoning, and serve chilled or at room temperature.

2. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil just before serving, if desired. Serve with warmed pita and raw veggies for dipping.

Nutrient Analysis per serving: Calories: 47; Total fat: 2 g; Sat fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 145 mg; Protein: 1.7 g; Carbohydrate: 6.1 g; Fiber: 1.5 g
— Recipe courtesy of Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN