A New Look at Snacking
Are you aware of how many times a day you snack and/or do you think about what foods you grab as a snack? You may be surprised to learn how Americans’ snack habits have changed.
Not only are more people – children, teens, adults, and the elderly – snacking, but they are snacking more often throughout the day than in past decades. Americans are snacking around the clock, with snacks accounting for more than half of all eating occasions, according to a recent article published in Food Technology about what, when, and where America eats. In fact, snacking is no longer about simply relieving a hunger pang between meals or satisfying a sweet tooth. For some of us, snacking is increasingly replacing meals.
According to an online Nielsen survey on snacking habits around the globe, some 45% of the more than 30,000 consumers who responded said they use snacks as meal replacements. More than half (52%) said that they sometimes replace breakfast with a snack, 43% do the same for lunch, and 40% consume a snack as an alternative to dinner. This trend in substituting snacks for meals is attributed in part to today’s time-starved, multi-tasking consumers who are looking for convenient, on-the-go meals.
The types of snacks chosen differ across the globe. Americans prefer salty snacks, particularly chips, followed in decreasing order by chocolate (candy bars), cheese, cookies, and fresh fruit. While the term “snack” generally holds negative connotations, healthy snack options such as yogurt are gaining in popularity.
The Health Benefits of Snacking
The popularity of snacking has raised questions about its impact on health. Specifically, does snacking affect nutrient intake and/or lead to overweight and obesity? The answers depend on the types of foods chosen as snacks, the portion size of snacks, the frequency of snacking, and the rest of the day’s diet. Well-planned healthy snacks from the basic food groups such as those recommended by USDA’s MyPlate can help close nutrient gaps and missing food groups, take the edge off hunger, and may help prevent overeating at meals. The role of snacking in overweight and obesity is unclear. However, risk of gaining weight by snacking is low when snacks are part of a well-planned calorie-balanced diet.
Five Tips to Make Snacking a Healthful Eating Experience
- Avoid mindless snacking such as sitting down with a bag of chips when watching TV or to relieve boredom or stress. Instead, choose healthful snacks only when hungry and avoid eating past the feeling of fullness.
- Consume nutrient-dense snacks that provide a lot of nutrients in relation to their calories and fit into your calorie budget. Examples include fruit and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products (white or flavored milk, cheese, yogurt), and whole grain foods.
- Choose some high protein foods as snacks (e.g., low-fat and fat-free yogurt, nuts, hard boiled eggs) as these may increase satiety or a feeling of fullness and curb appetite. A new study published in Nutrition Journal found that when healthy women consumed a high-protein yogurt snack mid-afternoon, satiety increased and their food and calorie intakes at dinner were reduced compared to consuming high-fat, low-protein snacks, specifically crackers and chocolate.
- Plan ahead. Keep healthful snack options on hand for easy access when you’re at home, at work, or on the road.
- Be aware of portion sizes. Measuring out snack foods in serving sizes, rather than eating out of a bag or box, may help avoid consuming excess calories.
Super Dairy Snacking Flyer – A New Resource
Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt deliver a powerhouse of nutrients and unique health benefits in an appealing, affordable, and readily available way. For some super dairy snacks, try the fun, kid-inspired, recipes for the entire family in the Super Dairy Snacking Flyer.
Another resource for healthful snack choices and tips for children and adults is USDA’s recently issued new guidelines for “Smart Snacks in Schools.”
Check out the recipe for “Homemade Strawberry Milk” from our Super Dairy Snacking Flyer.
Homemade Strawberry Milk
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 3/4 frozen cup of strawberries
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- Combine all ingredients in blender and drink up!