I confess: I am a snacker. When I had my weight problem: weight over 220 pounds and 44 inch waist, snacking was one of the reasons. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter agrees.
People in the U.S. are snacking more than ever before. According to a 2019 survey, 59 percent of adults worldwide prefer snacking to eating regular meals, and that figure jumps to 70 percent for young people. We have a lot of misconceptions about this increasingly common activity that can have an outsized impact on our health. Let’s take a look at five common myths:
Myth 1: Snacking is healthy (or unhealthy)
Snacking in and of itself is neither healthy nor unhealthy. A snack is, technically, any food eaten between meals. Unhealthy foods are clearly…well…unhealthy, but even healthy foods can cause unhealthy weight gain if they lead to excess calorie intake. If you are hungry between meals, choose low calorie foods, so you don’t end up eating more calories than your body needs in a day. The fact is, very few well-designed studies have looked at the impact of eating frequency on health, so we have little evidence to support either health benefits or detriments to snacking versus sticking to three meals per day.
Although trends indicate people are looking for healthier snack options, much of what they are getting is junk food in misleading packaging. Market research shows a rising demand for organic and plant-based foods, and products without additives. Organic potato chips, rice crackers, and even some cookies and candy bars meet all three of those criteria, but they are not necessarily good choices. Refined grains (like white flour and rice flour), added sugars (including concentrated fruit juice, honey, agave nectar, and “raw” sugar), and saturated fats (including butter and coconut oil) are associated with health problems even if they are organic, “natural,” vegan, gluten-free, or any other “health-halo” label food manufacturers put on the package.