. . . Fare for the Fast-Food Generation : Young Urban Professionals Forgo Full-Course Dining and Opt for Mini-Meals

The habits of yuppies have been getting so much press attention recently that a story about what they eat should come of no surprise. Grazing--the practice of snacking throughout the day instead of settling down to the traditional three-meals-a-day routine--has been adopted by the young urban professionals who are forgoing full-course dining and opting for quick, yet nutritious mini-meals to get them through the day. But yuppies are not the only ones interested in healthful daylong snacking.

Apparently, according to a recent survey by MRCA Information Services of Stamford, Conn., age, economic and marital status all affect snacking habits, with those younger than 45 and single being the most frequent grazers outside the home. They snack 30% more often than the rest of the country--attributable mostly to the fast-food era during which the yuppies grew up. Middle-income people, followed by high-income earners and then low-income people are also following the grazing trend.

In the home or on the run, grazers usually choose quick snacks that require minimal or no preparation. When dining out, they are eating appetizers and desserts and skipping the entree completely. But snacking is not new. What is new is the type of foods that are being chosen. According to MRCA’s “Snacking Trends” survey, which sampled 5,500 people in 2,000 households, Americans are not snacking any more often than they did during the past 26 years.

Preferences Change

Preferences, however, are what have changed. Yuppies are choosing healthful alternatives to the sweet and salt-ridden snacks of days past. Yogurt and popcorn are on the rise with grazers, whereas cheese and granola bars are on the way out. Frozen juice bars have gained popularity by 70% during the past year, and Mexican and Oriental foods--especially egg rolls--are the latest “in” snacks, according to the study.

But wouldn’t that much nibbling lead to overeating? Evidently not, according to Cheryl Loggins, president of the California Dietetic Assn., provided that you keep careful account of exactly what and how much food has been eaten.


“It really doesn’t matter whether you eat three times a day or 10,” Loggins said, “so long as you keep your calories in check and make sure the kind of snack foods you eat are nutritious and contribute to a balanced diet.”

Some people underestimate their actual intake, which can lead to excess pounds and an expanding waistline, so the association recommends filling out a food diary, noting each bite you take for a day or two so that you can see where cutbacks in your diet can be made.

If you’re concerned about too much fat in your diet you may also want to limit your intake of foods like peanuts and peanut butter, shredded coconut, bacon, potato chips, pecans, macadamia nuts and sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, cautions the association, since these have high fat tallies.

In its recently published “Snack Almanac,” the association offers some healthful tips and trade-offs for grazers. It suggests substituting raw vegetables, bread sticks, saltines, rice cakes and matzos for chips and crackers; dips made with cottage cheese or low-calorie salad dressings instead of sour cream or cream cheese dips; pretzels, plain popcorn and soy nuts instead of nuts; homemade bran muffins, bagels or whole-wheat English muffins for doughnuts or sweet rolls, and dried or fresh fruits, vanilla wafers and graham crackers for candy and cookies.

Some other snack trades are plain angel food cake or baked apples for frosted cakes or pies, and fruit juice diluted with soda water, chilled vegetable juice, iced tea or sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime for soft drinks.

Conscientious Snack Routine

“If you’re going to make grazing a habit,” Loggins said, “the best strategy for maintaining good health is to opt for snacks that are lower in calories and salt and high in nutrients.”

She concluded that foods like milk, fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, string cheese, hard-cooked eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt and tuna packed in water all have a place in a conscientious snacking routine. Whole-grain breads and crackers and peanut butter are other good possibilities. An added bonus: All of these foods require little or no preparation--a real coup for people who feel they don’t ever have time to sit down and eat a regular meal, Loggins said.

But what, then, does one serve when entertaining grazers who will certainly balk at a full-course formal dinner? A challenge, at best, but plan to build a menu around interesting, good-quality finger foods that are both nutritious and attractive.

Stuffed Cottage Chiles, for instance, are low in calories and call upon some typical Mexican ingredients, a particular favorite of grazers according to the survey. Mild green chiles are filled with sauteed ground beef, onions and cottage cheese. The recipe suggested here calls for packaged Mexican seasoning, but a blend of chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt will give the chiles an authentic spiciness. Top with a refreshing salsa for added flavor.

Three other Mexican-inspired finger-food dishes are Mexican Egg Rolls, Pineapple-Chile-Cheese Slaw and Turkey Tortillas. But note that the calorie counts for these recipes are higher than for some of the others--due mostly to tortillas, cheese and mashed avocado.


4 (7-inch) flour tortillas

8 eggs

1/4 cup chopped green onions

4 teaspoons butter

1 cup cooked black beans

3/4 cup mashed avocado

3/4 cup prepared salsa

1/2 cup sliced black olives

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Cilantro sprigs

Stack tortillas and wrap in foil. Place in 300-degree oven 10 minutes until warmed.

Meanwhile, beat eggs and green onions. Heat 1 teaspoon butter in 7-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in 1/4 of egg mixture, about 1/3 cup. As eggs begin to set on bottom, gently lift edges with spatula and tilt pan to allow uncooked eggs to run to bottom. When eggs are just set, slide onto 1 warm tortilla.

Spread 1/4 cup beans in thin layer over eggs. Top with 3 tablespoons avocado, 3 tablespoons salsa, 2 tablespoons olives and 1/4 cup cheese. Roll up and place, seam side down, on square of foil. Wrap snugly and return to oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining eggs, tortillas, beans, avocado, salsa, olives and cheese. Serve whole or slice into rounds. Garnish with cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

PER SERVING: 526 calories; 27 gm protein; 33 gm carbohydrate; 33 gm fat; 1,131 mg sodium; 620 mg potassium.


Protein 41% Riboflavin 35% Vitamin A 63% Niacin 12% Vitamin C 23% Calcium 38% Thiamine 22% Iron 32% STUFFED COTTAGE CHILES

1/2 pound ground beef

3/4 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon Mexican seasoning

1 cup cottage cheese

4 mild green chiles

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Saute ground beef, 1/2 cup onion and seasoning 4 minutes. Stir cottage cheese into beef mixture. Split chiles open on 1 side and remove stem and seeds. Stuff chiles with beef mixture. Bake at 350 degrees 10 minutes. Broil 1 minute longer. (Chiles should be cooked but slightly firm.)

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, remaining 1/4 cup onion and cilantro. Spoon sauce over chiles before serving. Makes 4 servings.

PER SERVING: 157 calories; 19 gm protein; 8 gm carbohydrate; 5 gm fat; 139 mg sodium; 356 mg potassium.


Protein 29% Riboflavin 15% Vitamin A 15% Niacin 17% Vitamin C 61% Calcium 05% Thiamine 07% Iron 13% PINEAPPLE-CHILE-CHEESE SLAW

1 (20-ounce) can chunk pineapple

6 cups shredded green cabbage

1 cup shredded red cabbage

1 (15 1/4-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained

1 (4-ounce) can sliced black olives

1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles

1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

1 clove garlic, pressed

1/4 cup vinegar

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

Drain pineapple, reserving 1/2 cup juice for dressing. Combine pineapple, green and red cabbage, beans, olives, chiles and cheese. Place in refrigerator to chill.

Meanwhile, combine garlic, reserved pineapple juice, vinegar, cumin and salt and toss with chilled cabbage mixture. Makes 4 servings.

PER SERVING: 407 calories; 18 gm protein; 53 gm carbohydrate; 16 gm fat; 661 mg sodium; 707 mg potassium.


Protein 28% Riboflavin 20% Vitamin A 19% Niacin 07% Vitamin C 149% Calcium 43% Thiamine 19% Iron 19% CHICKEN CURRY LOGS

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese

1 (5-ounce) can chunk white chicken

1 (12-ounce) jar apricot preserves

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/3 cup drained pineapple chunks, cut in quarters

1/4 cup raisins

1 tablespoon flaked coconut

While still cold, roll each package cream cheese into 10-inch log shape. Drain chicken, reserving liquid. Arrange 1/2 can chicken chunks on each cream cheese log. Refrigerate.

Meanwhile, heat preserves in 1 1/2-quart saucepan over low heat until just melted. Stir in reserved chicken liquid, mustard, curry powder, pineapple, raisins and coconut until well blended. Spoon 1/2 preserve mixture over each log. Makes 8 servings.

PER SERVING: 400 calories; 7 gm protein; 40 gm carbohydrate; 25 gm fat; 168 mg sodium; 175 mg potassium.


Protein 11% Riboflavin 10% Vitamin A 18% Niacin 04% Vitamin C 03% Calcium 05% Thiamine 02% Iron 06% TART AND TANGY GARDEN DIP

1 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon chopped dill weed

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon vermouth

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine yogurt, dill, cumin, garlic, vermouth, lime juice and salt. Chill. Serve as dip with raw vegetables. Makes 1 cup, about 4 servings.

PER SERVING: 33 calories; 2 gm protein; 4 gm carbohydrate; 1 gm fat; 98 mg sodium; 92 mg potassium.


Protein 03% Riboflavin 06% Vitamin A 01% Niacin 00% Vitamin C 03% Calcium 07% Thiamine 02% Iron 00% TURKEY TORTILLAS

1/2 pound ground turkey

1 tablespoon oil

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 1/4 cups water

1 (1 1/2-ounce) envelope Sloppy Joe seasoning mix

1 cup drained cooked pinto beans

1/4 cup finely shredded Jack cheese

1 tablespoon butter, softened

6 (8-inch) flour tortillas

Saute turkey in oil in medium skillet, stirring to crumble, until browned. Stir in tomato paste, water, seasoning mix and beans. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Combine cheese and butter. Spread 1/6 cheese mixture on each tortilla and roll up. Makes 3 servings.

PER SERVING: 614 calories; 43 gm protein; 53 gm carbohydrate; 26 gm fat; 678 mg sodium; 1,018 mg potassium.


Protein 66% Riboflavin 25% Vitamin A 50% Niacin 43% Vitamin C 46% Calcium 45% Thiamine 27% Iron 37% CRISPY CHEESE NIBBLES

1 pound Jack cheese

3 eggs, beaten


1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1 tablespoon chopped oregano


1/3 cup Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons vermouth

2 chopped green onions

1 teaspoon dill weed

Cut cheese into sticks or cubes. Combine eggs and 3 tablespoons milk. Dip cheese into mixture, then into bread crumbs mixed with oregano. Repeat. Deep-fry in hot oil until golden. Drain.

Meanwhile, combine mustard, 1/4 cup milk, vermouth, green onions and dill weed in saucepan and heat. Serve fried cheese sticks with dip. Makes 40 appetizers, about 10 servings.

Note: Because the temperature of the oil may affect the amount of fat retained by the cheese, especially if the oil is not hot enough, the nutrient data can vary.

PER SERVING: 256 calories; 15 gm protein; 9 gm carbohydrate; 17 gm fat; 445 mg sodium; 111 mg potassium.


Protein 23% Riboflavin 16% Vitamin A 14% Niacin 03% Vitamin C 02% Calcium 38% Thiamine 04% Iron 07%