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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!
Vegetable Dip with Dill

Healthy Snacking for the New Year

I'm pleased to introduce guest blogger and Illinois State University, Food Nutrition and Dietetics student, Austin Duffell!

With the New Year in full swing, many people are excited to try out their New Year Resolutions. When talking with different people about their resolutions, one that seems to come up often is a change in eating habits. Lifestyle changes, such as eating a more balanced diet, can be difficult, but what if changing your eating habits wasn't as tasteless as you thought? There are many ways to incorporate healthy eating into your everyday life without sacrificing the flavors you love.

Busy schedules can account for people consuming excess calories due to the convenience of fast food and vending machine snacks, but a little preparation one day a week can help kick those habits to the curb. Many people understand that fruits and vegetables are an important part of the diet but are unsure how to incorporate them into their busy schedules. A simple solution to increasing fruit and vegetable intake is to incorporate these foods into your usual snack. Whether your snack is savory or sweet, fruits and vegetables can satisfy both of these sensations. By adding a healthy dip to your favorite fruit or vegetable, you can provide yourself with essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and a healthier calorie option for snacking without sacrificing flavor.

When choosing fruits and vegetables, it is important to provide yourself with many different colors. This is because different colors of fruits and vegetables contain different amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. In fact, the color of a fruit or vegetable greatly depends on the amount of an antioxidant or vitamin that it contains. For example, a carrot, an orange, a pumpkin, and a sweet potato are grouped in a yellow/orange category. These fruit and vegetable sources contain high amounts of Vitamin A and Vitamin C which also contribute to their color. So next time when you're deciding on which fruits and vegetable sources to choose from at the grocery store, remind yourself to "eat the rainbow."

In order to prepare for your week of healthy snacks, it is important to take 30-60 minutes out of your day off of work to snack prep. This includes washing your fruits and vegetables thoroughly, cutting the fruits and vegetables into snack size pieces, storing them in proper containers, and creating a healthy dip. It may be very beneficial to portion out your prepared fruits, vegetables, and dip into travel containers. It's less to worry about, makes you conscious of how much you are eating, and it's easy to grab and go. It is also important to be conscious of how much dip you portion out because this is where most of the calories from your snack are likely to come. Try starting with two tablespoons, and use the dip sparingly for each piece of fruit or vegetable. If you do not have time to prepare your own dip but still want something to go with your fruit or vegetable, try using dips such as low-fat ranch, Greek yogurt, low-fat yogurt, hummus, or a vinaigrette.

If you forget to bring your snack from home, don't worry. Here are a few options to choosing beneficial snacks out of a vending machine that will curb your hunger and help you refuel.

  • Small bag of pretzels, nuts, or trail mix
  • Fat-free or reduced-fat popcorn
  • Whole-grain granola bars or cereal bars
  • Dried Fruit: raisins, cranberries, or apricots
  • Microwavable items such as soup or oatmeal
  • 100% fruit juice or vegetable juice
  • Water

Vegetable Dip with Dill (Printable PDF)

1 ½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt

4 oz. (1/2 brick) Neufchatel cheese, softened

1 Tablespoon dill weed spice, dried

1 Tablespoon green onion, minced

1 Tablespoon dried parsley

¼ teaspoon salt

Yield: 12 servings, 2 Tablespoons

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 40 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 90 milligrams sodium, 2 gram carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 4 grams protein

Fluffy Vanilla Fruit Dip (Printable PDF)

4 oz. (1/2 brick) Neufchatel cheese, softened

¼ cup confectioners' sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (8 oz.) container frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed

Yield: 12 servings, 2 Tablespoons

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 70 calories, 2 grams fat, 40 milligrams sodium, 9 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 1 grams protein

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