Grazing--all-day snacking instead of three square meals a day--may be the most convenient way of eating for many people, but it also can create gaps in nutrition, according to a Sacramento registered dietitian.
"People can actually benefit by eating several small meals throughout the day if they have nutritious foods on hand at home and at the office," said Suzanne Rice of the Alta California Regional Center.
"But in order to avoid gaps in nutrition, grazers need to look at the day as a whole," she said. "Using the four food groups as a guide in planning snacks or small meals can help assure the grazer of getting the nutrients needed to stay healthy and active."
Some convenient, single-serving foods from the four food groups include cheese, yogurt or cottage cheese (milk group); cans of tuna or chicken, hard salami, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds or peanut butter (meat and meat alternatives group); fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits, raisins and dried fruit (vegetables and fruits group), and tortillas, crackers, bread sticks and English muffins (breads and cereals group).
Two Daily Servings
The recommended number of servings for the average healthy adult consists of two daily servings each from the milk and meat groups and four daily servings each from the vegetables-fruits and breads-cereals groups.
Since time is often at a premium, especially in the morning, Rice suggests one-minute breakfasts such as cottage cheese and peaches, apple slices with peanut butter or cheese and crackers.
"Some other one-minute meals include a diced apple, banana or strawberries mixed into a carton of yogurt or celery sticks stuffed with tuna or chicken salad," Rice said.
A burrito made with a tortilla, refried beans and cheese or a mini-pizza made with an English muffin, tomatoes, cheese and sliced salami are nutritious meals that can be made ahead of time and popped in the microwave oven.
Peanuts, raisins, hard cheese or pieces of fruit can be packed into a briefcase or purse for an on-the-go snack.