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Food and Nutrition Author: Harvard Health Publications Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Tips for Choosing Healthy Snacks - The Healthy Eating Special Health Report

By Harvard Health Publications
Feb 25, 2011 - 4:20:34 PM

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Harvard’s Healthy Eating Special Health Report

( - BOSTON— Healthy eating is easier than ever. That’s because we know more than ever about what a healthy diet looks like. A newly updated Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, Healthy Eating: A Guide to the New Nutrition, delivers the latest information on the link between food and health in an easy-to-understand format. It provides specific guidance for making healthy food choices and also features a Special Section on snacking healthfully by choosing foods with a low glycemic load.

In this new report, a section on glycemic load describes both the amount of carbohydrates in a serving of food and how fast that amount will raise your blood sugar level. Foods with a high glycemic index are digested more quickly than foods with a low glycemic index. Rapidly digested foods can flood your bloodstream with sugar. A quick surge of insulin to clear the sugar can leave your blood sugar too low after just a few hours and when this happens you feel hungry; you’re apt to overeat and possibly gain weight. Fiber slows digestion and therefore lowers a food’s glycemic load. By increasing the bulk of foods and creating a feeling of fullness, fiber may also help you avoid overeating and becoming overweight.

Snacking and eating healthfully needn’t be mutually exclusive. There are plenty of healthy foods that are quick and easy to eat, such as fruits, veggie sticks, and moderate amounts of nuts. Because typical snack foods like chips, candy, and crackers have a high glycemic load, these foods won’t keep you feeling sated for very long. So you run the risk of overeating.

Here are some tips for choosing foods with a low glycemic load:

* Look for non-starchy, non-sugary foods like raw vegetable sticks, bean dips, and fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, and berries.
* Low-fat yogurt is another good snack choice, but avoid yogurt with “fruit on the bottom,” which is basically sugar syrup. Add your own fruit instead.
* When choosing grain-based snacks, look for whole-wheat crackers and natural granola.

Also in this report:

* Eating for health
* Foods to avoid
* How safe is your food?

The Healthy Eating Special Health Report is available for $18 from Harvard Health Publications (, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School. Order it online at or by calling 877–649–9457 (toll-free).

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