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BETTER BITES

Advice on filling up, not filling out

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DECATUR – Kelly Ensign of Milmine says her snack choices change with the season.

“We have a garden, so when summer gets here, I eat a lot of watermelon and cantaloupe,” she said. “In the wintertime, I'm hardcore chocolate.”

Caitlin Huth, nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, offered Ensign and other attendees a host of healthy snack ideas during a free session last month at the Macon County Health Department. “We want you to have a snack that will fill you up but won't fill you out,” she said.

The event was co-sponsored by the Obesity Prevention Coalition.

Huth said snacks with staying power contain protein, fiber or both. Examples include a hard-boiled egg (protein), popcorn (fiber), peanut butter spread on apple slices (both) and bean dip with carrots (both).

“Your body digests these more slowly so you have the sensation of feeling full longer,” she said. “You can also use snacks to make up for any food group you miss at mealtime.”

Indeed, Huth said snacks tend to make up about one-quarter of a person's caloric intake, so it's important to plan ahead for healthy snacking by keeping snacks on hand or packing them to take with you.

Huth tempted her audience with two possibilities, a tasty trail mix of dry cereal, raisins and chocolate chunks, and a savory corn and bean salsa.

“If salsa is not the definition of summer, I don't know what is,” she said. “If it's not something you want to make, you can buy it at the grocery store.”

Huth urged her listeners to think beyond traditional sweet and salty snacks and to mix things up to keep it interesting.

Sally Williams of Decatur said she tries to channel her love of potato chips into eating healthier variations.

Nancy Napier of Decatur said she chooses low-carb snacks, such as peanuts or fruit. She also likes to hard-boil eggs ahead of time.

“I'll shell two eggs and eat one, and the other one I'll kind of split with my grandpuppy,” Napier said. “Eggs are good for dogs.”

Other snack tips:

  • Snack only when hungry and not when you're bored, frustrated or stressed
  • Avoid constant snacking and eating snacks an hour or two before a meal
  • Watch serving size by reading package labels and portioning out a snack rather than eating from a multiple-serving container.

Corn and bean salsa

3 medium red tomatoes, washed and coarsely chopped

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 8-ounce can yellow corn, rinsed and drained (or 1 cup fresh corn)

1 small onion, chopped

½ bunch fresh cilantro, washed and chopped

Juice from ½ fresh lime

½ teaspoon black pepper

Combine ingredients. Serve immediately or refrigerate to serve later.

Popcorn trail mix

1 cup air-popped popcorn

1 tablespoon dried fruit (try raisins or dried cherries)

1 tablespoon dark chocolate pieces

Combine ingredients and serve.

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