Is snacking helping or hurting you?

By Connie Jeon | Blog

Mar 30
snacking
In the 20th century, Americans typically consumed 3 square meals a day. The 21st century has brought on the notion of snacking, largely because quick grab and go convenience foods are, well… convenient. There are many nutritious snacks and non-nutritious snacks available in grocery and convenience stores. So when does snacking cross the line from healthy to unhealthy?

Never trust the labels on packages. They are not nutritional information, they are marketing information. Snacks that are labeled “100 calories” or “all natural” are marketing gimmicks to make snacks appear healthy. Yes, that 100 calorie pack may be low in calories, but what about sugar and refined ingredients? Instead of looking at the health claims on the bag/container, look at the nutrition labels. There have been many studies conducted to assess the whether or not snacking is good or bad. The one thing all studies have in common is lower BMI is associated with better snack choices. Choosing foods with higher vitamin and mineral levels and stable levels of protein, carbohydrate, and fat are a better way to assess you snack choice. When in doubt, choose some fruit or cut up vegetables. They are usually loaded with good nutrients!

There is a right way to snack and a wrong way. First of all, snacks are supposed to occur between meals, not replace a meal. Many snackers, especially young millennials, choose snack foods such as chips, chocolate, and cheese to replace their meals. These foods are not nutritionally dense and will more likely put on the pounds instead of maintaining weight or taking pounds off. Second of all, portion size is important. If you are eating 3 large meals a day and add snacking in between meals on top of that, you are likely adding too many calories to your diet. If you snack between meals, make sure your snacks and your meals contain the right amount of calories for your lifestyle. Snacks are meant to be small. Even if you are eating a snack food such as chips, stick to a single serving, not the whole bag.

Lastly, snacking does not increase your metabolism. It is a popular notion that the thermogenic effect of digesting food helps burn more calories if your eat more frequently rather than less frequently. Metabolic rate did not change between people who ate 3 meals a day and those who ate 7 small meals a day.

There is no one way to eat that is best for everyone. If you are a snacker, it is ok as long as you do it right! If you are not a snacker, and prefer your food in meal form, that is also ok! Just make sure your hunger is not bigger than your stomach, causing you to consume too much food all at once. Determine what your eating pattern is based on your own lifestyle choices, i.e. how much you exercise and the types of food you like to eat.

About the Author

Dr. Connie shares her expertise on lifestyle factors that can drastically improve your health. She continues to strive to maintain her health despite her Lupus diagnosis and as a result, lives a thriving life helping others do the same.