There is an ambivalent opinion on whether snacking is beneficial for our health or, on the contrary, does more harm than good. As by definition ‘snack’ is a separate little meal between regular ones, food industry has successfully adapted a number of high-calorie foods and beverages for this purpose. Thus, people may eat far more than usually regardless of whether or not they are actually hungry. This, in turn, may result into weight gain, weight loss prevention, habit to get through various life crises with overeating etc. What influence can snacking have on our health and are there any ways to turn its consequences into positive ones?
According to the 2011 report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Americans, both men and women, have significantly increased their daily calorie intake. The report attributes these extra calories to the habit of snacking twice as often as the Americans back in the 1970s did. At the same time, some studies claim that people simply started consuming more high-calorie foods, while general number of snacks per day remained the same. However, habit to have a snack has resulted into growing number of obese people and more health conditions caused by irresponsible diet and poor nutrition.
Among the most common reasons people snack are desire to fulfill the immediate need for something sweet or salty, preventing hunger or trying to ‘delay’ it, belief that snacking is beneficial for their health, attempts to boost metabolism, wish to ease unpleasant emotions or stress with something tasty etc. Some even replace a proper meal with it. Moreover, 2014 Nielsen report claims that the most consumed snack foods in the US are chocolate, chips and cheese.
So what can be done in order to avoid longings for food when we don’t really need it? The Institute of Food Technologists recommends making sure one stays full for longer time. To help with this task, seemingly hard and challenging, there are such elements as
- Pulses. Low-calorie as they are, pulses are well-known for their high amount of healthy protein and ability to bring one the feeling of satiety. It is worth considering lentils, chickpeas and its products, dried peas and eatable beans as part of their meals in order to avoid unnecessary food intake afterwards;
- Nuts. Rich with natural fats, nuts are able to significantly decrease one’s cravings for snack if they are a part of one’s meal. At the same time, if the habit of snacking is still a matter to deal with, it’s much better to make it a nuts’ snack rather than a chips’ one. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts will do just fine here;
- Fiber. This one speaks well enough for itself. Fruits and berries (bananas, apples, pears, oranges, strawberries and raspberries etc.) as well as dried fruits (raisins, figs) and vegetables (broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts, green pear, turnips etc) would make both an excellent addition to one’s meal and a decent snack without dangers of gaining weight or developing unhealthy eating habits;
- Protein. Numerous studies have confirmed that having a protein-rich diet leads to better control over one’s appetite and reduces likeability of unhealthy snacking. Eggs, whey, peas, soy products, meat are a way to go.
Thus, while snacking itself is not that harmful and in modern rhythm of life is sometimes the best way to give ourselves nutrients we need, it is important to not make it about unhealthy foods that may lead to developing unpleasant or even threatening health conditions. Just keep a bottle of clean water and a couple of fruits in your bag, and many liabilities of having a habit to snack will do much less bad to you and your body.