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Nutrition 101: Snacking, a Do or a Don't?

December 4, 2017

By Jessica da Silva, RD, LD at UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown

MARSHALLTOWN— Snacking now accounts for one-quarter of American’s daily calorie intake!

Snacking has been the subject of a lot of research. Most of the results have been inconclusive. Whether you believe snacking can help control appetite or whether it contributes to recreational eating and excess calories, you can find research that supports your viewpoint.

Likely what is most important is snack quality rather than frequency. According to a 2014 Nielsen report, the favorite snacks in North America are chips, chocolate and cheese. Fruit came in fifth for popularity of snack of choice.

Snacking can be very beneficial for the diet if done correctly. A good rule of thumb is to include at least two of the 5 food groups in your snack. Snacking can provide another opportunity during the day to improve the quality of your diet. Including fruits and vegetables in snacks can help you to reach the 5-6 cups recommendation for most men and women.

Another good rule to follow is to include a source of protein with each snack. This can help to increase satiety and help to slow any rise in blood sugar. Many foods besides meat contain some protein. Good choices for snack can include low-fat cheese, nuts and seeds or nut butters and beans or hummus.

Popcorn can be a great choice for snack. Many people still do not realize popcorn is a 100% whole grain food that is high in fiber and low in calories. This obviously does not include movie theater popcorn or most microwaveable types. These tend to include plenty of calories and saturated fat. Some microwaveable popcorn still includes trans-fat.

Making your own popcorn is simple, fast and an easy way to control the amount of calories and saturated fat you are consuming. Air popped popcorn only contains 31 calories per cup. Even oil popped popcorn is a lower calorie choice. It contains about 55 calories per cup depending on how much oil was used. If popping your own corn does not appeal to you there are plenty of pre-popped bagged choices available. Practice your label reading skills to see which the best choice is for you!

To find out more information on how small changes to your diet can help with your weight management goals, contact your UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown dietitians at (641) 854-7530 or MT_Dietitians@unitypoint.org.

Click here to find out more information about UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown’s Medical Weight Loss Clinic!


Try this recipe!

Pop Your Own Popcorn!


¼ cup popcorn kernels

1 tsp vegetable oil

Paper bag/or stove-top pot with lid


Add ingredients to either paper bag or pot. If using bag, fold the top twice. Microwave for 2-3 minutes. If using stovetop method, combine ingredients in pan and cook on medium-high heat. Make sure you leave the lid on until all popcorn is popped!

Ways to increase flavor:

·       Toss with parmesan cheese and rosemary

·       Sprinkle with chili powder and a squeeze of lime juice

·       Mix with nuts or roasted chickpeas for a complete snack

·       Dust with cinnamon and a little brown sugar

·       Combine apple pie spice and cinnamon and sprinkle on popcorn

·       Try a mixture of basil, parsley, garlic salt for a savory blend


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