A Pyramid of Snacks

This article discusses snacks from the different food groups and offers several recipes.
A Pyramid of Snacks - Articles


Snacking is part of the American lifestyle--whether at school, in the car, by the television, at a sports event, or in the movie theater. Carefully chosen, snacks can be an important part of your healthy eating plan. Snacks can supply nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, calcium, and fiber, without adding too much fat or too many calories. Studies show that many youth do not get enough iron, vitamin A, or vitamin C. That's why snacking comes in handy. Good snacks can give kids these and other important nutrients.

Be Snack-wise...

If snacks conjure up images of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, think again! As with other food choices, you need to snack with variety, balance, and moderation in mind. These snack-wise tips can make between-meal eating a valuable part of your day!

  1. Plan snacks using the SuperTracker guidance system. Make snacks a part of your personal pyramid for the whole day. Rather than thinking of snacks as extras, choose snacks that help you meet the goals of your personal pyramid.
  2. Choose snacks for variety. Add to the enjoyment and quality of your eating plan--consume a variety of snack foods within each food group.
  3. Snack when you are hungry. Skip the urge to snack when you are bored, frustrated, or stressed. Avoid "mindless" snacking.
  4. Eat snack-size portions. Snacks are not meal replacers. Smaller portions usually are enough to take away between-meal hunger pangs without interfering with your mealtime appetite.

Be careful of snack foods packaged in "single serving" containers. Sometimes these packages really provide more than one serving. If the package says "Serves 2," that means twice the calories listed on its Nutrition Facts panel. Be sure to check the label.

Wise snack foods can come from each of the five groups.

Snacks from the Grain Group

  • Cracker stacks--wheat crackers spread with cheese spread
  • Ready-to-eat cereals
  • Flavored mini rice cakes or popcorn cakes
  • Cereal/granola barsPopcorn/pretzels
  • Trail mix--ready-to-eat cereals mixed with raisins or other dried fruit
  • Graham crackers

Snacks from the Vegetable Group

  • Raw veggies and lowfat dips/salad dressing such as:
    • baby carrots
    • celery sticks
    • green pepper slices
    • cucumber sticks
    • squash slices
    • cherry tomatoes
  • Steamed broccoli, green beans, or sugar peas with low-fat dip
  • Tortilla filled with chopped veggies or lowfat dressing
  • Celery stuffed with peanut butter

Snacks from the Fruit Group

  • Apple ring sandwiches--peanut butter on apple rings
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Tangerine sections
  • Chunks of banana or pineapple
  • Canned fruits packed in juice
  • Juice box (100% juice)

Snacks from the Milk Group

  • Milk shakes--made from fruit and milk
  • Cheese slices with thin apple wedges
  • String cheese or individually wrapped cheese slices
  • Yogurt cups
  • Yogurt drinks

Snacks from the Meat Group

  • Hard-cooked eggs (wedges or slices)
  • Peanut butter spread thin on crackers
  • Bean dip spread thin on crackers
  • Pyramid wrap (see recipe below)

Try These Fun, Healthy Snacks:

Pyramid Wrap

  • For each tortilla you will need:
  • 1 6-7-inch whole wheat tortilla
  • 1-2 ounces thin-sliced turkey or ham
  • 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded lettuce
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • low-fat mayonnaise or salad dressing

On a tortilla, spread mayonnaise or salad dressing of your choice. Then layer on the turkey or ham, cheese, lettuce, and raisins. Roll up and enjoy.

Makes 1 wrap. One serving provides 190 calories, 18 grams protein, 3 grams fiber, and 2 grams fat.

Feel free to make a wrap using different ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons grated carrot (about 1 medium carrot)
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla yogurt

Granola Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups granola cereal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup margarine, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Set aside 1/2 cup of the cereal. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl. Spread mixture into a greased 11 x 7 inch baking dish. Crush reserved cereal and sprinkle over the batter. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Cool for a few minutes and cut into squares.

Makes 12 servings. One serving provides 187 calories, 3 grams protein, 1 gram fiber, and 9 grams fat.

Pyramid Kabobs

  • 1/4 loaf french bread
  • 4 1 oz Swiss cheese cubes
  • 4 1 oz cooked ham cubes
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 canned or fresh pineapple pieces/chunks

Cut bread into chunks. Cut cheese and ham into cubes, if necessary. Wash the cherry tomatoes. Drain the pineapple chunks if using canned pineapple. Assemble the foods on wooden skewers.

Makes 4 kabobs. One kabob provides 220 calories, 14 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, and 7 grams fat.

You can choose other ingredients from each food group:

  • Meat and bean: cooked chicken, lean roast beef, tofu, or turkey
  • Milk: try different cheeses
  • Vegetables: cucumber, broccoli, or cauliflower pieces
  • Fruit: strawberries, orange sections, banana chunks, cantaloupe chunks, grapes
  • Bread: bagel, pita, cut into pieces

Apple Tuna Pyramid Pocket

  • 30 ounces tuna in water, drained
  • 3 small apples, chopped
  • 3/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 3 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 5 pita pocket rounds, cut in half
  • 10 lettuce leaves

Combine tuna, apple, yogurt, and mustard. Fill pita pockets with one lettuce leaf and tuna mixture.

Makes 10 servings. One serving provides 217 calories, 26 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, and 2 grams fat.

Ice Cream in a Bag

  • pint-size zipper-type bag
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • gallon-size zipper-type bag
  • 3 cups ice
  • 1/3 cup salt

Put sugar, vanilla, and milk into the pint-size bag. Close bag, making sure it is sealed. Combine ice and salt in gallon-size bag. Put pint bag inside gallon bag and close large bag securely. Turn shake and roll the bag for approximately 6 minutes until you have a soft, solid delicious treat.

Makes 1 serving. One serving provides 115 calories, 4 grams protein, and 2 grams fat.

Snack Pizzas

  • 1 tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10 biscuits)
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or other favorite cheese)
  • 3/4 cup sliced or chopped vegetables (green peppers, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, broccoli)

Flatten each biscuit into a 3-inch circle and press into a greased muffin cup. Spoon 1 1/2 Tablespoons of pizza sauce into each cup. Top each with the vegetables and 1 Tablespoon of cheese. Bake at 425° for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and package individually in plastic sandwich bags.

Makes 10 pizzas. One serving provides 240 calories, 5 grams protein, 2 gram fiber, and 12 grams fat.

Fruit Leather

  • 6 oz package of dried fruits
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar

In a medium saucepan combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until fruit is very tender. Drain off any liquid and blend in a food processor. Line a 15 X 10 X 1 inch baking pan with foil. Spray with nonstick coating. Spread fruit in thin, even layer over foil. Place in a 300° oven for 35 minutes. Without opening the door, turn off oven, and let dry overnight. Lift foil and fruit leather off pan. Remove leather from foil. Roll up and wrap in waxed paper. Will keep in refrigerator up to 3 months or in freezer up to 6 months.

Makes 4 servings. One serving provides 40 calories, 1 gram fiber, and trace fat.

Whole Grain Trail Mix

  • 3 cups oat circles
  • 3 cups rice squares
  • 3 cups unflavored popcorn
  • 3 cups whole wheat squares
  • 3 cups whole wheat pretzels
  • 1 cup raisins

Mix ingredients together. Place in a sealed container.

Variations--add any of the following: peanuts, dried cranberries, almonds, dried apricots, chocolate chips, small oyster soup crackers, cheese crackers.

Makes about 15 cups. One serving (1/2 C) provides 140 calories, 4 grams protein, 3 grams fiber, and 1 gram fat.

Prepared by Julie Haines, former assistant coordinator, nutrition links program