Healthy Snacking: A Live Chat with Cleveland Clinic Dietitian Cindy Moore

Snacks needn't be your diet downfall -- learn how to snack in a healthy way

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Live Events Transcript

Snacks can be the downfall of good intentions or they can be a healthy part of a good eating plan. We talked with Cindy Moore, MS, RD, LD, FADA director of the nutrition therapy department at The Cleveland Clinic, about how to make smart snack choices.

The opinions expressed herein are the guest's alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Our guest today is dietitian Cindy Moore, of The Cleveland Clinic. She will answer your questions about healthy snacking choices.

Member question: Is fruit bad to snack on at any time of the day? I know that some fruits have natural sugar in them but which ones? Which fruits are best?

Moore: Fruit is a great food choice any time of the day. The key is to eat a variety of fruits, and all fruits are going to contribute a variety of beneficial nutrients. Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, are going to contribute vitamin C. Some fruits, such as berries and grapes, will be richer sources of fiber, but most fruits will contribute vitamins A, C, a variety of minerals, they will be low in calories, filling because of their water content, and just a terrific food to snack on.

Member question: Is it a good idea to snack if you're an emotional eater?

Moore: My advice for an emotional eater is to be careful. Snacking can be a healthy behavior for emotional eaters, as long as one doesn't overindulge or select foods that are very high in calories. However, I would recommend that an emotional eater get in touch with when and why and what they generally choose to snack on. Try to address the root issue and then from that point, determine the most appropriate foods to snack on.

In other words, recognizing that you're an emotional eater doesn't give you a license to snack with abandon, however, it does permit you to snack -- just on smaller amounts and selecting your food choices carefully.

Moderator: So knowing your emotional "triggers" can help?

Moore: Correct. I think that you first need to determine what is setting you off, then you need to evaluate what should be the next physical response. Should it be eating, should it be physical activity, or should it be something else?

Member question: In regard to eating fruits and vegetables, are there any nutrients that are lost through peeling the skins?

Moore: There certainly may be some nutrient loss when you're removing the skin from a fruit or vegetable, however, in doing so it may make for a more enjoyable eating experience. For example, I wouldn't enjoy eating a kiwi unless it was peeled because of the fuzzy outside. The same applies to an orange. Nevertheless, the nutrients found in the flesh of the fruit will be a wonderful source and I would recommend not worrying about the small loss from the nutrients in the skin.

There may be some fruits or vegetables where eating the skin is perfectly acceptable and in fact may contribute additional fiber, such as eating an apple or cooking potatoes with the skin on. In those cases, leaving the skin on does not detract from the pleasurable eating experience and gives you the benefit from all of the nutritional values of that food.

Member question: What are the healthiest snacks for someone who loves the chips and saltier snack foods?

Moore: Often when we enjoy chips and salty snack foods it's because we enjoy the crunch, the texture from eating that food, and in that case foods such as ready-to-eat dry cereal, bread sticks, rice cakes, or even nuts may be a very acceptable and healthier substitute.

If it is the salt or the saltiness that is craved, adding a small amount of table salt to the cereal, selecting nuts that are lightly salted, or even enjoying crackers may be a nice substitute to replace the saltiness.

Moderator: I know I just love the saltiness! Just how bad is salt? For a while there it seemed salt was considered a real culprit, but these days it's all about the fat.

Moore: When we look at the amount of salt or sodium in our diets, we need to really look at the whole array of foods that we eat. Much of the salt or sodium in our diets comes from highly processed foods. If you frequently eat frozen prepared entrees, luncheon meats, boxed dinner mixes, and similar foods, your sodium intake is likely to be high.

However, if you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, lower-fat dairy products, protein sources, meats, poultry, and fish prepared from scratch, and a variety of whole grains, it's likely that you can afford to add a little table salt when desired and not get into problems with too much sodium.