Snacking sometimes gets a bad rap. The International Journal of Obesity reported that people who are obese snack more than nonobese individuals, and the more snacks people eat, the more calories they take in — specifically sweet and fatty foods. Healthy snacking keeps hunger in check so you don't overeat, but you need to make the best choice.
Oatmeal versus chocolate chip versus Fig Newtons versus graham crackers versus Animal Crackers:
All cookies are about 100 to 150 calories per ounce. Calorie-wise, there's no difference between an oatmeal cookie and a chocolate-chip cookie.
Chips Ahoy Chunky Chocolate Chip cookie (one cookie, about 2/3 of an ounce): 80 calories
Keebler Country Style Oatmeal (one cookie, about 1/2 ounce): 60 calories
Go with an oatmeal cookie, since the fiber from oats, a whole grain, will fill you up more.
Animal crackers have about 130 calories per ounce, and graham crackers about 120 calories per ounce, although because each cookie is smaller you feel like you're getting more.
Fig Newtons are lower in calories at 55 calories per cookie (1/2 ounce).
Fit Tips: Don't bring the whole bag or box with you. Take one at a time and seal up the rest. Your best bet: those 100-calorie snack packs — they really help control portions. Or you can make your own 100-calorie packs using zip bags.
Beware of giant cookies. One Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked Dark Chocolate Chunk Nantucket cookie (slightly more than 1 ounce) has 150 calories. Also, just one Double Stuf Oreo or Milano cookie contains about 70 calories — pretty high considering their size.
Choose whole-grain cookies. These are not health foods and may not even have fewer calories, but whole-grain flour is better than refined flour. There are whole-grain Fig Newtons and Chips Ahoys. Whole grains help you feel full longer and have fiber and nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium and selenium.
Bake your own. Oatmeal raisin cookies can be prepared using egg whites, skim milk, reduced-calorie margarine and an artificial baking sweetener (Baking Splenda).
Bagel versus pita versus potato versus baked potato chips:
Both bagel chips and pita chips have about 130 calories per ounce. Baked chips, at around 110 to 120 per ounce, are your best bet. Potato chips fall in the 150-to-160-calorie range.
Check the nutrition information. Not all foods with healthy-sounding names are diet-friendly.
"Eating baked chips or veggie chips is not the same as eating a baked potato," reminds Bonnie Liebman of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "It's a big mistake to think a chip is a vegetable."
Fit Tips: Try a 1-ounce bag of chips. Prepackaged portions mean you can't eat more than one serving, and you can see how small those serving sizes really are.
Try other types of chips, such as Stacy's Soy Thin Crisps, which have 6.5 grams of protein at 110 calories per ounce. But watch out, because sometimes those single-serving bags are larger than 1 ounce. Also, lower-calorie chips should only be eaten to replace higher-calorie chips already in your diet.
Make your own whole-wheat pita chips (about 140 calories for a 2-ounce pita). Squirt the pita with margarine spray, add a bit of garlic powder and salt, toast and cut it into multiple chips. You'll get double the chips for half the calories.
Ritz versus Saltines versus Wheat Thins versus Triscuits:
Triscuits rack up 20 calories per cracker but are 100 percent whole grain. Ritz crackers have about 16 calories each, whereas saltines have 12 apiece. Wheat Thins come in at about 9 calories per cracker. But gram for gram, they all contain roughly the same number of calories.
Fit Tip: Always try to choose whole-grain crackers. Even if you don't save calories, at the very least you'll be getting the benefits of the whole grains.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public-health advocate. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.