Heather Mangieri, MS, RD, CSSD
Sports Dietitian/Spokesperson/Speaker

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Smart Snacking


By: Heather Mangieri, RDN

What comes to mind when you hear the word snack?

Do visions of crackers, chips or pretzels fill your head? Or maybe you think about nuts, beef jerky or a piece of raw fruit.

Snacks, or mini-meals as I prefer to call them, play an important role in your daily meal plan.  Not only do they help to tame hunger between meals, they contribute to your daily intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

That is, they should.

Yet surveys suggest that cookies, snack cakes and ice cream are among the most popular snack foods. While these foods provide plenty of calories, they fail at delivering the nourishment that snacks are meant to provide.

So how do you create a snack worth consuming?

Don’t just feed hunger; feed your body

1.)    It should include at least two, preferably 3 of the macronutrients carbohydrates, protein and fat.  Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are all important but they all have different roles in the body. Carbohydrates provide fuel, not only for working muscles but also for your brain.  Proteins provide the amino acids needed for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.  The body needs a certain amount of fat to function, but as part of a snack, a small amount provides flavor and helps to keep you satisfied until your next meal.

2.)    Snacks should contribute a decent dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. Snacks are often necessary to meet daily nutritional needs. When building a snack think about how it is contributing to your growth, development, health and hunger.  Not just your hunger or boredom.

3.)    It should be calorie controlled, between 200-400 calories depending on your specific needs and goals. If you need fewer calories, you do not eliminate one of the foods you decrease the portion size of all foods so that you still get a good variety of nutrients.  For example, someone that needs fewer calories might have ½ turkey sandwich and ½ banana as their afternoon snack while someone who needs more would eat a whole turkey sandwich and a whole banana. Or someone who needs fewer calories could use reduced calorie bread while someone who needs more calories could choose a regular variety.

Here are some examples of smarter snacks:

Snack (mini-meal) Carbohydrate Protein Fat Balanced?
½ turkey sandwich w ½ slice cheese and a small tangerine BreadTangerine TurkeyCheese Cheese   check mark
Greek yogurt with 1 Tbsp. chopped nuts and 1 Tbsp. dried fruit Greek yogurtDried Fruit Greek yogurt Nuts  check mark
Snack Platter:Hardboiled egg, 2 slices watermelon,  check mark
½ cup cottage cheese with ½ cup berries with 2 whole wheat crackers FruitCrackers Cottage cheese *cottage cheese if full fat version is purchased  check mark
Apple with 1 tbsp. peanut butter and 8 ounces milk AppleMilk Milk Peanut Butter  check mark
3 cups popcorn seasoned with 2 tsp melted butter or sprayed with oil and a sting cheese Popcorn String cheese String cheeseButter or Oil  check mark

So tell us, what are your favorite foods to snack on?


Building a Balanced Smoothie

Green smoothie with spinach, kale, cherries, peaches, blueberries
By: Laura Maydak
Reviewed by: Heather Mangieri, RDN

Smoothies are delicious, fast, and nutritious meals on the go – when made correctly.  It’s important to remember that meals, whether served on a plate or in a glass, should be nutritionally balanced.  So, while an all-fruit smoothie may make your taste buds happy, the lack of protein and fat will leave your stomach unsatisfied.

Luckily, making a nutritionally balanced smoothie is simple – just follow these six steps, and you’ll have a healthy and satisfying meal on the go:

1. Choose a Base (1/2 – 1 cup):

100% Fruit juice, almond milk, brewed tea, coconut water, milk, rice beverage, soymilk, water

2. Choose a Fruit (1 – 1 1/2 cups):

Apple, banana, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, kiwi, mango, melon, oranges, papaya, peach, pear, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries

3. Choose a Vegetable (1 – 2 cups):

Beet greens, butternut squash, carrots, celery, collard greens, cucumbers, kale, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato

4. Choose a Protein (Amount varies):

Cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, protein powder, silken tofu

5. Choose a Healthy Fat (Amount varies):

Avocado (¼ avocado), chia seeds (1–2 Tbsp), chopped nuts (1/8 cup), ground flax seeds (1–2 Tbsp), hemp seeds (1–2 Tbsp), nut butter (1 Tbsp)

6. Give it a Boost (Amount varies):

Cocoa powder, fish oil, flavor extracts (vanilla, almond, mint, etc), herbs and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, etc.), ice, wheat germ

Extra Tips:

  • If you’re making a post-workout smoothie, aim for a ratio of 3:1 to 4:1 carbohydrates to protein – this is optimal for recovery.
  • If you use frozen fruit, purchase varieties with no added sugar.
  • Be aware of the fat content of your liquid base and protein – try to choose low fat or fat free varieties.
  • You can adjust the consistency of the smoothie by adding more liquid or using less dense fruits and vegetables.
  • Be creative!  This formula guarantees a nutritionally balanced smoothie – so throw your taste buds some (delicious) curve balls!
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