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Snack Smarter with Dairy

by Stephanie Cundith, MS, RD, LD | August 8, 2017 | Dairy Foods, Nutrition | 0 comments

Outer Space Sandwich

In our house, back to school time means back to snacking time. Sure, snacks play an important role in fueling our active summer days, but during the school year – when schedules are more structured and the turnaround time between school and after-school activities is tight, not to mention said after-school activities are two to three hours long – the role snacks play becomes more important than ever. The foods we snack on need to tide us over until dinner. If they don’t, hunger will affect both mood and performance in whatever activities we participate in, leading to a potentially miserable experience for everyone involved. I say ‘we’ because while my son is participating in his activities, I am using the time to get in a workout or run errands. I rely on snacking just as much as my son does. Making smart choices is the name of our snack game!

What makes a snack smart? It’s one that maximizes on taste and nutrition. The taste factor speaks for itself: What good is a snack if you don’t want to or won’t ever eat it? Now let me expand on the nutrition factor. Research on food consumption in America shows snacks contribute up to 25 percent of daily calories in adults, while other research shows snacks may contribute almost one-third of daily calories in children. Whoa. That’s a big chunk of calories of which we want to make count in our favor. By choosing nutrient-rich foods to nosh on, we are more likely to fill our hungry stomachs and keep them full until meal time. (What good is snack if it leaves us unsatisfied and wanting another one?) More specifically, it is important to choose foods which contain protein, as this is the nutrient which helps us feel fuller longer. This is where dairy products come in. Trust me when I tell you that keeping a fridge stocked with a variety of milk, cheese and yogurts will put you on track to A+ snacks! Dairy foods provide nine essential nutrients, including the protein we need to help tide us over, as well as bone-building calcium and carbohydrates for energy. The variety of dairy products as well as their versatility also mean there’s something in the dairy aisle for everyone and the list of snacking options is limitless. Look at these tips to see how dairy products can turn ordinary snacking into extraordinary snacking:

  • Aim for a snack which provides a combination of carbohydrates and protein. Fruits and grains, such as cereal and pretzels, are rich in carbohydrates yet lacking in protein. Pair either with a dairy product and you have a winning combo! Try fruit and cheese kabobs, a fruit and yogurt smoothie, pretzels dipped in vanilla Greek yogurt (sweet and salty, yum!) or a bowl of cereal with milk.
  • Snacking on the go? No problem! Deconstruct the fruit and cheese kabob and serve it in a portable snack container. Blend a smoothie and serve in a sports bottle. Look for one of the many yogurt products available which contain the yogurt and whole-grain dippers in one container. Fill a baggie with cereal and serve with an 8-ounce bottle of milk, white or flavored.
  • Find ways to turn an average snack food into an exceptional one. For example, stir plain Greek yogurt into prepared hummus to boost the protein content and extend the calories. Same goes for guacamole! Serve with baby carrots and whole-grain pita or tortilla chips. Make hot chocolate with milk, then dunk graham crackers for a cold weather treat.
  • Think outside the snack food box. A slice of leftover pizza, a half of a ham and cheese or PB&J sandwich with a glass of milk or a bowl of cottage cheese topped with fresh fruit are all popular and effective snacks in our house. Don’t rule out foods typically reserved for meals, and be creative with the foods you have on hand; these can all be transformed into smart snacks.

Feeling like your snacking IQ is higher? Hope so! Tell me, how will you snack smarter this school year?

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Stephanie Cundith, MS, RD, LD
Manager, Corporate Communications at Midwest Dairy

As a registered dietitian and nutrition spokesperson for Midwest Dairy Council, I work on behalf of dairy farmers to communicate the benefits of dairy nutrition. In addition to Dairy Makes Sense, I am a blogger for The Dairy Report.

I write from the perspective of a working mom who recognizes the challenges families face when sorting out nutrition information and putting healthy foods on the table. Dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt - all proven to play a critical role in overall health and development – take center stage in my family’s meal plan. As a runner who always is training for the next big race, I also write from the perspective of an athlete. I understand the important role nutrition plays in fueling an active lifestyle and believe that dairy helps me perform at my best.

My education background may be considered non-traditional in the field of dietetics. I have an undergraduate degree in journalism. After graduation I decided to go back to school to study nutrition and become a dietitian. I joined the Midwest Dairy staff eight years ago. Before that, I worked as a hospital dietitian and a weight management coach.

I'm originally from Pennsylvania, but Kansas has been my home now for more than ten years. Favorite pastimes include traveling east to visit family, cooking, and doing anything outside - especially distance running or chasing after my nine year-old son.

Let’s talk more about dairy nutrition, health and fitness! Follow me on Twitter @scundithRD.

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