Monday, December 14, 2009


This is a good article that just appeared in the Iron Girl e-mail newsletter. It's something I'm focusing on while trying to drop the holiday pounds. I think I'm being healthy by having a LUNA Bar or something similar. But there are a lot of calories in there, and I can probably fill up with an apple with some peanut butter on it. Not to say that bars don't have their place, and I do eat a lot of them, but I need to be more selective.

How dense are your snacks?

By Marni Sumbal

Pre-planned, healthy snacks are essential in a balanced and heart-healthy lifelong eating plan. Although some people graze on unhealthy snacks due to poor daily nutrition choices, emotions and/or boredom, you should seize the opportunity to eat nutritious foods between meals for several reasons.

Consuming healthy snacks can help to control blood sugar, prevent overeating and indulging, manage hunger and cravings, maintain energy levels throughout the day, support weight loss or weight maintenance and provide fuel for physical activities.

Portions, calories and nutrients should always be kept in mind when planning and preparing healthy snacks, but factors such as energy density should also be considered. Processed and packaged foods, sweets and fast-food meals are typically energy dense, packing a lot of calories in a relatively small portion. Consequently, energy-dense snacks are generally low in nutritional value. In contrast, fruits and vegetables are viewed as low energy density foods, meaning that you can eat a large quantity without a lot of calories.

Nutrient-dense foods, which are naturally low in calories, are filling because of fiber and water content. Alongside high-fiber vegetables, whole grains and fruits, which provide volume and a subsequent slowing of digestion, protein food choices, such as nuts, yogurt or lean meat, provide healthy fat and/or protein to help fill you up. If adding nuts to your snack repertoire, be sure to monitor the portions because although they are energy-dense, they are also high in calories and fat.

As you make the change to smart, low-energy density snacking, you will learn to choose foods that are low in calories (energy density), yet still high in nutrients (nutrient density). In the long run, you are teaching yourself how to eat more nutritious food throughout the day while feeling satisfied with less total calories.
If you were planning to eat a snack of approximately 200 calories, which of the following would leave you more satisfied after eating? Additionally, which snack would you look forward to eating as a way to postpone hunger between meals?

1) High-energy density snack: 1 strawberry Pop-Tart
2) Low-energy density snack: 1 medium mandarin orange + 1 plum + ½ cup plain fat-free yogurt + 11 pistachios + 1 dark chocolate Hershey's Kiss

Hopefully, you choose the second snack. Ultimately, low-density foods will allow you to add more vitamins and minerals into your diet without sacrificing portions. Learn to appreciate the value of natural and wholesome foods as you begin to substitute low density, nutrient-filled foods for calorie- dense, heart-unhealthy foods. As with any healthy diet, planning your portions and food choices will allow you to recognize the most satisfying and nutrient-filled foods for a lifelong, healthy eating plan. .

Marni holds a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. Marni is a Level-1 USAT Coach and is currently pursuing a registered dietician degree. She is a 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship finisher and finished the Ford Ironman Louisville Triathlon on Aug. 30, 2009, in less than 11 hours. Marni enjoys public speaking and writing, and she has several published articles in Hammer Endurance News, CosmoGirl magazine and Triathlete Magazine, and contributes monthly to and

Any questions, Email or visit www.trimarni.

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