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Health and Fitness Tips

Healthy Snacking for the New Year

Nutritionist worth their salt will recommend eating an apple or carrot sticks if you want a healthy, nutritious snack. But you can imagine serving crudites tofu kobobs and rice cakes when "the gang" comes over to watch the game on television? Even the most healthy-conscious among us have to admit that there are times when only cookies, chips and dip, and fatting goodies will do.

Snack foods are a big issue year round for my clients, let alone during the beginning of a new year. They want to know if they can still have those high fat snacks how much, and what do they "have" to give up. Of course, if you choose to snack on fruit or low-fat yogurt you'll get fiber, calcium and other important nutrients your body needs. My advice is to reach for these types of foods first and then to munch on your favorite snack foods.

New food labels give consumers options to find variety, balance and moderation - the cornerstone of a healthy diet - in their snack food choices. Consumers now have the information they need to make informed choices among foods they like - they now have a tool to help them control portion sizes, and make dietary tradeoffs or substitutes a little easier.

When choosing snack foods, I advise my clients to figure out what is more important to them - eating a larger portion of the reduced-fat version or eating a smaller amount of the full-fat version. For example, if a serving of potato chips is one ounce (28 grams), there may be 16 chips per serving for the full fat version and 30 for the fat free version. I find that several clients like a certain snack because of the number of calories it contains or the sodium content.

Many well-known brands of snack foods are now available in reduced-fat or reduced sodium versions so you can steer clear of nutritional land mines without being a party pooper. However, the trick is to find lower - calorie, - fat or salt versions of your favorite snacks, and to compare the amount that makes up a portion with the amount you normally eat so you can incorporate snack foods into your diet without overdosing on fat and salt.

How many tortilla chips make a serving? Which has less sodium per serving, salsa or bean dip? Does a half cup of "party mix" contain more fat than an equal amount of mixed nuts? A quick, easy way to spot healthier variety of cookies, chips and other snack foods, is to be on the lookout for products that carry the nutrient claims, "fat free," "low fat," "light," "low sodium," "lightly salted," or "reduced-" calories, fat, sodium on the front of the package. You can trust these claims because they are among a number of descriptive terms that the government has created precise definitions for, and all foods making such nutrient claims must meet stringent criteria.

Before the new food label regulations went into effect, a serving size was whatever the manufacture said it was - several products did not even list nutritional information. Knowing the number of serving in a package is important because the amount of fat, sodium or calories listed on the label is based on serving size.

Although it seems counterintuitive, keeping track of portion size may be especially important when a food is low or no-fat. Two recent studies indicated that people who know a food is low in fat, tend to eat more of it or eat more throughout the day to compensate.

Remember fat-free is not calorie-free. For some reason, people seem to think they can eat as much as they want of a food that is low in fat or fat-free. Also, if you cut out all fat from your diet but consume three times the calories, you will gain weight. Some fat-free and low-fat versions of food often contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium to compensate for the loss of flavor that occurs when fat is removed. I caution my clients to examine the amounts of these nutrients on fat-free and low-fat products and to pay close attention to the calories in a single serving to avoid concluding that fat-free is synonymous with low in calories.

You don't have to go to extremes - cutting out all snack foods from your diet or eating only products that are fat free. With food labels - help is right there to guide you into eating nutritional foods that are filling and that taste good. Happy New Year!

Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation, or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, spin yoga, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at

Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center, LLC
459 Acoma Street · Denver, Colorado 80204 · 303-860-7131
Hours: Monday-Friday: 6am-8pm · Saturday: Closed · Sunday: Closed