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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more

Healthful Snacks for the Chip-and-Dip Crowd

by Ruth Papazian

Any nutritionist worth her salt will recommend eating an apple or carrot sticks if you want a healthy, nutritious snack. But can you imagine serving crudités, tofu kabobs, and rice cakes when "the gang" comes over to watch the big game on television? Even the most health-conscious among us have to admit that there are times when only cookies, chips, crackers, dips, and spreads will do.

"Snack foods are a big issue with my clients," admits Connie Diekman, a St. Louis-based registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "They want to know: 'Can I still eat them?' 'How much can I eat?' and 'What else do I 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 food," says Diekman.

Naomi Kulakow, coordinator of food labeling education in the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, points out that the new food label gives 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 the foods they like--they now have a tool to help them control portion sizes, and make dietary tradeoffs or substitutes," she says.

Another option is products containing olestra, a fat-based substitute for conventional fats.

"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," Diekman says. "For instance, if a serving of potato chips is 1 ounce (28 grams), there may be 16 chips per serving for the full-fat version and 30 for the fat-free version." Diekman adds that many of her clients incorporate their favorite snacks into their diets by giving up other things, such as not putting dressing on their salads.

She finds that "most people are interested in a particular product attribute--the number of calories or sodium content--and may base their snack food choices on that one factor."

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