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Smart snacking … but in the afternoon!

Published:Wednesday | April 4, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Charlyn Fargo, Contributor

If you snack between meals (and, yes, most of us do), but are also trying to lose weight, new research may offer some help. A recent study finds that snacking at midmorning was associated with losing less weight than snacking at other times of the day, according to Nutrition Today.

The study, which looked at 123 post-menopausal women who were overweight or obese, found that those who reported snacking between 10:30 and 11:29 a.m. lost an average of seven per cent of body weight over a 12-month period. Women who did not report snacking mid-morning, however, but snacked in the afternoon or evening, lost an average of 11.4 per cent of their body weight. Late-morning snackers tend to keep snacking throughout the day; nearly 96 per cent of the mid-morning snackers reported more than one snack per day versus 83 per cent of the afternoon snackers and 81 per cent of the evening snackers, according to the study.

Snacking more frequently more likely means taking in more calories over the course of a day, the authors wrote. However, the researchers did not suggest dieters should never snack. In the study, afternoon snacking was associated with a slightly higher reported intake of fibre and servings of fruits and vegetables.

Researchers said it's important to snack on the right foods — 100 to 200 calories — which are high in nutrients. Other research suggests that combining protein, carbohydrate and a small amount of fats can help the body more slowly absorb the carbohydrates and keep you feeling full longer.

Information courtesy of Journal of the American Dietetic Association (December 2011).

Homemade salad dressing

Q: Are homemade salad dressings healthier than bottled dressings, or do people just like their freshness?

A: The flavour of a freshly made dressing is hard to beat, and making your salad dressing at home does offer you the opportunity to make a healthier option than most of the commercial dressings. One of the biggest nutritional advantages is the opportunity to reduce sodium substantially. Many bottled dressings contain from 260 to 550 milligrams of sodium in a two-tablespoon serving. That's 11 to 24 per cent of the day's recommended limit — or up to a third of the lower limit recommended for people who are over 50, African American or who have diabetes or high blood pressure.

Use healthy oil

Start with a healthy oil like canola or olive oil, and add lemon juice, vinegar or other juice plus herbs and spices, and perhaps a little chopped garlic. You will slash sodium to less than five milligrams in that same two-tablespoon serving if you don't add any salt, or to less than 160 milligrams if you add a dash. If you like a mustard flavour, mustard powder (ground mustard seed found in the spices aisle) adds no sodium; or a small amount of prepared mustard might raise sodium of your dressing just an additional 20 or 30 mg.

To change up the flavour, you can play with different oils, such as grape seed, walnut or pumpkin seed oil, as well as experimenting with different herbs and spices — all sodium free. For creamy-type dressings, try using plain yoghurt as a base.

Information courtesy of American Institute for Cancer Research.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.