For many people, snacking can be part of a healthy diet that can lead to effective weight loss. However, according to research presented at the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo, snacking, as well as beverage consumption outside of a regular meal, continues to increase among Americans, accounting for more than 25 percent of calorie intake each day.
Between 1977 and 2006, snacking in the American diet has grown to constitute “a full eating event,” or a fourth meal consisting of about 580 calories daily, according to Dr. Richard D. Mattes, Ph.D., professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University.
While overall, snacking has increased, “there has been a significant increase in the amount of calories consumed through beverages,” said Mattes. Beverages are estimated to account for 50 percent of all calories consumed through snacking.
According to Mattes, many Americans don’t equate beverage intake with calorie intake so they are less likely to count these calories or make up for the excess by cutting back elsewhere in their diets.
While snacking is not necessarily linked with weight gain, it’s important to make sure that your snacks are sources of nutrients as well as energy rather than empty calories.
Make Your Snacks Count
Snacking can help, rather than hurt your diet if you snack smart. Keep your snacks to about 100 calories, but instead of packaged chips and cookies, opt for fresh fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy.
Pack Your Own Snacks
Whether you’re in a long meeting without access to healthy snacks or a lengthy car trip, packing snacks will help you avoid calorie-packed options that might tempt you when hunger sets in. Avoid the airplane snack trap by passing on salty pretzels and tasteless packaged cookies and bringing your own fresh fruit, roasted almonds or protein bars.
Snacking might have a bad reputation for encouraging people to eat excessive calories, but studies have shown that healthy snacking helps you lose weight. It’s a chance to eat veggies and choose healthy, portion-controlled foods at your next meal because you won’t be ravenously hungry.