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BODY WATCH : Snack Attacks : For between-meal meals, do you go for healthy or not-so-healthy? Or maybe you reach for nothing at all. : Not All Treats Deserve Their Bad Raps

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you’re like most Americans, you’ve had a lifelong love affair with snacks.

Popcorn at the movies. A cracker or six before dinner. Party mix on Saturday night. Peanuts at the ballgame.

Unfortunately, the word snack is sometimes put in the same category as evil. With little nutritionally redeeming value to speak of, they tempt, they taunt and when you finally give in, they anchor their munching, crunching selves to your hips and create the chaos that comes with being unable to fit into your jeans.

But snacks don’t always deserve their bad reputation.

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“Two or three snacks a day can be healthy--as long as they are the right kind,” says Diane Grabowski, a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at Pritikin Longevity Center in Santa Monica.

This means cooling it on the lard chips and upping your apple intake.

But is it really possible to ease your hunger pangs without spending your entire fat-gram allowance on a potato-chip binge?

The following suggestions are from Grabowski and Gail Frank, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition at Cal State University, Long Beach:

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* Try fat-free potato chips.

* Get unbuttered popcorn. And, if you can stand it, skip the salt.

* Go for pretzels. They are usually very low in fat.

* Eat a bagel, also very low in fat.

* Take time out for atypical healthy snacks. Suppose the hungries hit at 3 p.m., a typical time. Indulge in a baked potato, fat-free and sugar-free yogurt or a banana. At dinner time, you are less likely to overeat.

* Look at snacks as a reward-type food.

* Realize when a snack has grown to “small meal” status.

* Watch for eating frequency. If you eat occasionally throughout the day, it’s snacking . If it’s constant, it’s probably grazing .

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* Closely monitor the nutritional values of the food, minimizing fat and salt.

* When trying to reduce snacking, keep it a secret at first. There are too many people wanting, consciously or not, to sabotage your plans. Announce your success after you’ve built confidence with willpower. Or, better yet, let others notice your new eating habits.


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