Ester Burgess column: Healthy snacking tips

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 29, 2007

Q. What are good snacks to eat? And which brands?

A. Before I answer this question, know that I am not a licensed nutritionist or dietitian.

The information is solid but widely available to anyone who is interested.

When you change your lifestyle, a change in eating habits is almost always needed. What people don’t realize is that most people who stay in shape always are aware of what they are eating.

Take me, for example. I don’t count calories. I eat pretty much anything I want, but I really watch my portions and my goal is to have 80 percent on my plate that is nutritious for me and 20 percent that is “add on” (gravies, dressings, sauces).

Your stomach is supposed to be the size of your fist. Look at the plate you are going to devour and see if you think it can “fit in your fist.”

Especially in this society, more is always better. All you can eat is in! If I pay X amount of dollars, I want lots of food. When you experience that miserable full feeling, you are stretching your stomach. Eventually, you have stretched it out so much that it “needs” a lot of food just to get the feeling to be full.

Because of the increase in calories without burning any more — you got it, you gain weight!

And I believe you when you say, “I am still hungry.”

Only part of your stretched-out stomach is filled.

It is so important that when you start to cut your calories to cut them slowly.

For example, when you normally would eat two pork chops, eat one pork chop and scoop up an extra helping of veggies. If you normally eat a gallon of ice cream after dinner, eat half a gallon!

Now to answer your question — there are so many different snacks out there.

Because it is lowfat or no fat does not mean that you can eat it in unlimited portions. Because the label says “no sugar added” does not mean it doesn’t have a lot of calories. It does not matter how well you eat –if your calorie intake is higher than the calories you burn you are still going to gain weight.

So exercising is VERY important.

Read the labels. If you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients, I wouldn’t eat it.

Check serving sizes. Just because it is one thing in one package does not mean that the serving size is one. Another “trap” can be that one serving size is three chips. I don’t know about you, but when I eat chips I want more than three chips! Multiply these servings with the calories per serving and you will be shocked how many calories you just took in.

To answer your question about what brand you should buy, that is a personal opinion. There are some wonderful store brand foods out there with healthy and natural ingredients that cost a fraction of the brand name foods.

So start reading those labels, check the calorie content and watch your portions. But most of all, take your time to eat, and enjoy your meals and snacks.

Contact Ester Burgess with health and fitness questions at 704-636-0111 or