Snacking is a great way to keep your energy up throughout the day. It’s also an easy way to get extra vitamins and minerals into your diet without having to eat large amounts of food.
However, snacking too often can lead to weight gain and other health problems.
The best thing about snacks is that they give you something to look forward to when you have time to sit down and eat a meal. They help you avoid feeling hungry while you wait for your next meal.
However, if you find yourself eating more than one snack per day, it may be time to cut back on how much you snack.
If you do decide to snack, try to limit yourself to no more than two small snacks per day. This will help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels and prevent overeating later in the day.
The food and beverage industry spends about $14 billion each year promoting products high in calories, salt, saturated fats, and added sugars. Most of that money goes toward advertising, according to data from Nielsen. But what do consumers really think about that spending?
A recent survey conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation reveals some interesting trends among American snackers.
About a quarter of respondents said they snacked multiple days a week, while another third said they did it at least once a day. Hunger and thirst were cited as the main reason for snacking, followed by eating something sweet or salty.
When asked why people snack, 40% said they eat to replace meals, while 30% said they snack because they are hungry, and 20% said they snack simply because there is nothing else around. One-quarter of participants said they snack because they don’t feel like having a full meal.
When asked whether they had ever eaten during a meal, 35% said yes, and nearly half (46%) said they had done so in the previous month.
Among those who admitted to doing so, 27% said they had eaten during a meal because they were too busy to cook or prepare food.
Another 17% said they had eaten while cooking, and 11% said they had eaten because they didn’t want to waste anything.
Nearly one-third (32%) of respondents said they had consumed alcohol within three hours of consuming a snack. And 12% said they had drunk alcohol within six hours of snacking.
What Does All This Mean?
If you’re looking to lose weight, cutting out all snacks except for water and fresh fruit could be a good idea. However, if you enjoy snacking, then make sure you stick to reasonable portions and limit yourself to only two snacks per day.
The Pros and Cons of Snacks
Snacking is often defined as consuming small amounts of food throughout the day. However, there is no consensus among researchers on how much constitutes a “snack.”
Some studies define a snack as anything less than 200 kcal, while others say it’s anything less than 400 kcal. A 2017 review found that most people eat 2–3 snacks per day, averaging around 500 kcal each.
Researchers have tried to determine whether snacking has a positive effect on diet quality and health outcomes. One study found that snacking had a neutral effect on weight loss over 12 weeks.
Another study found that snacking increased energy intake during the day but did not affect total energy consumption over the course of a week. Other research suggests that snacking does not improve dietary quality or lower body mass index (BMI).
There are many reasons why people might choose to snack. For example, some people snack to satisfy hunger pangs, while others do it to avoid feeling hungry later on.
Some people also snack to get more nutrients into their diets. Others may snack to help them manage their blood sugar levels. Still, others snack to reward themselves after completing an activity.
There are pros and cons associated with snacking. On the plus side, snacking can be a convenient way to consume extra calories when you’re short on time. It’s also easy to incorporate snacks into your daily routine without thinking about it.
On the other hand, snacking can lead to overeating if you aren’t careful. In addition, snacking can make you hungrier later on.
A 2016 study found that snacking was linked to higher BMI, which could increase the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. People who snack frequently tend to weigh more than those who rarely snack. This association between snacking and weight gain is stronger in women than men.
A 2018 study found that snacking increases appetite, which leads to greater calorie consumption. The authors of this paper suggest that snacking may contribute to weight gain and obesity. They note that people who snack frequently tend to have higher BMIs.
Another 2018 study found that snackers tend to have poorer overall diet quality. Researchers concluded that snacking is associated with poor eating habits and increased caloric intake.
What Are the Health Risks Associated With Snacking?
Many people think that snacking is harmless. But, there are risks associated with snacking.
Research shows that snacking is associated with a higher BMI. This means that people who snack regularly are at greater risk for overweight and obesity.
Type 2 diabetes
Snacking is associated with higher fasting glucose levels. This indicates that frequent snackers are at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Research shows that snacking is linked to elevated LDL cholesterol levels. This means that frequent snackers are more likely to develop heart disease.
People who snack frequently are more likely to have cancer. This link seems to be strongest among smokers.
The study was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
“We found that people who eat snacks at least once a day were about 30 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than those who did not eat snacks daily,” said lead researcher Dr. Robert A. Neuhouser of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Pittsburgh.
Neuhouser noted that the findings don’t prove cause-and-effect. However, he added that they raise questions about how much we should snack.
“It’s important to remember that these results only apply to adults,” he said. “They don’t tell us anything about children.”
He suggested that future studies focus on younger populations.
“This research suggests that limiting the number of times per day that people snack might help reduce their risk of certain cancers,” Neuhouser said.
In addition, he said that researchers need to do more work to determine whether or not snacking causes cancer.
“More research is needed to understand why snacking is related to an increased risk of some types of cancer, but not others,” he said.
Snacking is also linked to high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure.
So, Is Snacking Bad or Good for You?
Snacks aren’t necessarily bad for you—in fact, some research suggests eating small meals throughout the day could actually boost metabolism. But what about those days when you just don’t feel hungry? What if you want something sweet or salty during the afternoon slump? Or maybe you’ve got a big meeting coming up, and you’ve been told to bring a packed lunch.
The truth is, there isn’t much evidence to suggest one way or the other whether snacking is good or bad for you. And while we know that snacking does offer certain benefits (like keeping blood sugar levels steady), we also know that too many calories consumed outside of regular meals can lead to weight gain. So how do you make smart decisions about snacking?
First, let’s look at the pros and cons of snacking.
- Eating regularly throughout the day helps keep your energy level consistent. If you skip breakfast, you might find yourself feeling tired and sluggish throughout the day.
- Snacking can prevent overeating later in the day. Research shows people tend to eat more food when they start feeling full. By having smaller meals throughout the day, you’ll avoid reaching that point.
- Some studies show that snacking can improve mood. In one study, researchers found participants reported less stress after consuming a snack compared to skipping meals. However, other studies haven’t shown similar effects.
- Snacking may increase calorie intake. According to the American Heart Association, most people consume between 150 and 300 extra calories from snacks each day. That means if you have three snacks every day, you could be adding up to 900 extra calories to your diet!
- Snacking can disrupt sleep patterns. It takes time to digest foods, so it can take hours before your body feels completely satiated. This means you won’t be able to fall asleep until late at night.
- Snacking may interfere with exercise routines. If you’re trying to lose weight, you probably already know that exercising first thing in the morning is best. But if you’re planning on working out later in the day, you’d better wait until after your last meal. Otherwise, you’ll end up feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
- Snacking may cause weight gain. One study showed that women who ate two or more snacks daily gained more weight than those who didn’t snack. The same was true for men.
So now that you know the pros and cons of frequently eating throughout the day, here are some tips to help you decide which snacks are right for you.
Eat Healthy Snacks
Now that you know what not to do when it comes to snacking, let’s talk about what you should be eating. You don’t need to give up snacking entirely. Instead, try to limit your snacking to healthier options.
Below are some ideas for healthy snacks that will keep you satisfied and energized all day long.
Fruit is a great snack option because it’s full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. It can also help with weight loss by keeping your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day.
Try to eat fruit at least three times per day. You can have fresh fruit or frozen fruit as well. Frozen fruit has more nutrients than canned fruit.
2. Whole Grain Cereals
Whole grain cereals are another good snack option. They’re high in fiber and complex carbohydrates that fill you up without adding extra calories.
Look for ones that are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed, chia seed, hemp seed, and sesame seed, and walnut oil.
Yogurt is a delicious way to get probiotics into your diet. Probiotics are live bacteria that help maintain digestive health.
In addition, yogurt provides protein, calcium, phosphorus, and other nutrients. If you prefer plain yogurt, make sure it’s nonfat.
Hummus is made from chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans). Chickpeas are a good source of folate, which supports energy production and cell growth. Hummus is also a great source of fiber, protein, and iron.
Chocolate is another treat that’s perfect for a snack. Chocolate bars come in different varieties, including milk, white, dark, and bittersweet.
If you want to eat something sweet, choose dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids that boost brain function and protect against heart disease.
Milk chocolate is higher in fat and calories than dark chocolate. However, both kinds contain antioxidants that may help prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Nuts are another great snack option. Choose nuts that are unsalted and raw. Salted nuts tend to be processed and packed with sodium.
Raw nuts are easier on your stomach and provide essential nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium, copper, manganese, selenium, and zinc.
Almonds, pistachios, pecans, cashews, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and Brazil nuts are just some examples of nutritious nuts.
Oatmeal is a great breakfast choice. Not only does oatmeal give you energy, but it helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease. Plus, it’s filling enough to satisfy hunger between meals.
Oatmeal is usually cooked in water, but you can also cook it in milk, soy milk, almond milk, or juice.
Snacking isn’t always bad. Sometimes, it’s necessary to fuel yourself during the day. But if you’re looking to lose weight and keep your body healthy, you need to avoid foods that aren’t part of your meal plan. Instead, focus on choosing healthier options that will leave you feeling fuller longer.