Fruitful Snacking

Afternoon rolls around, and lunch seems like it was an eternity ago. Stomach rumbling, you reach for a snack to quell your hunger. But what should you choose?

Pick fruit! It's an easy, pleasurable, and nutritious way to aid your efforts to improve your health and lose weight.

Unlike most "snack foods," fruit is good for you! It offers vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and other nutrients, in a tidy, plant-based package. That bit's important: After all, we need more plant-based foods in our diets for not only health but environmental and budgetary reasons.

Fruit offers you great bang for your calorie buck, too. Fruits like most vegetables, are made mostly of calorie-free water. Not only will that water infusion keep you hydrated, it will help fill you up before you consume too many calories. Even better, fruits such as peaches and pears come in tidy little packages, doing the portion-control work for you.

Here's a neat trick: Next time you're starving, with visions of nachos and chili-cheese fries dancing in your head, try grabbing some fruit. It may not sound as satisfying to your desperate tummy, but give it a chance. Silencing the growls will relieve your temporary nutritional insanity, allowing you to consider more sensibly whether to indulge. You might find you don't need anything more. Keep choosing fruit first, and you might find your cravings for junk fading over time!

Fruit's just as convenient as "snack foods," too. If you can open a bag of chips, you can peel a banana. Many fruits require no prep beyond a quick wash. Moreover, a lot of fruits can be stored at room temperature for long periods without spoiling, making it simple to throw a snack or two in your car to take to work each day.

Maybe your tastebuds don't tingle at the thought of an apple, though. True, if you have a sweet tooth, most fruits will satisfy it and then some, but not every fruit is bound to make your less-than-sweet teeth ache. Citrus fruits and green apples come with sometimes biting levels of acidity, great for those of us reared on sour candies. Grapefruit, a particular favorite of mine, balances its acidity and mild sweetness with a bitter kick.

It doesn't stop there! Bananas can satisfy a desire for a rich, creamy texture. If savory is more your thing, try approaching your fruit the way they do south of the border, adding seasonings such as chile. Looking to cool off? Freeze! Grapes and bananas can be eaten straight up when frozen, and other fruits can be puréed into ice pops and smoothies.

By the way, should you desire a healthier alternative to sports drinks for yourself or the kids on a hot day, try orange wedges sprinkled with salt. You'll get nutrients and protection from dehydration, without all those sugary, empty calories.

Give fruit a try! Introduce more into your diet, and you might just see both your junk consumption and your weight go down.

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