Nutrition snacks

Published on September 13th, 2013 | by Joe Starks

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Fitness Jargonbuster: Snacking

When we are trying to improve our lifestyle, one of the first things we tackle is the way we are eating. It seems simple at first to remove some of our worst habits and find those foods or meals we are going wrong at. But when it comes to fine-tuning our habits we might realize it is very hard to find the ideal way to eat and live. Of course our meals and lifestyle is something that has to be customized to our needs and preferences, but on the other hand we do like some scientific evidence to back up our claims. One of the most pressing issues that have divided people worldwide is if snacking in between meals is a healthy thing or not. It is actually very hard to give a clear scientific answer to that dilemma and people are justifiably torn. So, let’s give it a try and shed some light on this problem.

What is snacking exactly and how does it influence us?

A snack is usually a very small sized meal, which, more often than not, is eaten between larger more substantial meals to curb hunger until the next meal time arrives. Some use snacks as substitutes for larger meals, while others may choose never to snack, depending on how much their larger meals satisfy their hunger.

The exact type of food one chooses to be their snack varies immensely from person to person. Some choose something light and small, like yoghurt or a piece of fruit, while others prefer really fatty snacks like crisps, crackers and candy bars. It is thus obvious that snacks can’t be judged that easily on their effect on health.

Fact is that depending on the amount of snacks you eat and what type of snacks these are, you can actually have a quite healthy life while snacking.

Benefits of snacking

People who actually believe snacks are great for us have plenty of reasons to do so. Let’s look a bit into this kind of attitude. Some of the reasons snacks might be good for you are:

  • Being very hungry often leads us to eat more than we really need. This is why eating a snack or two when we are famished between meals can keep us from overeating later on.
  • Choosing healthy snacks in between meals can offer us some of the vitamins and minerals we didn’t manage to squeeze into our meals because the taste didn’t match.
  • Snacks can improve our mood, helping us keep up our diets. When you are feeling down you can improve your mood with something small and tasty, which can keep you from going for something big and tasty instead.

Some believe that eating little meals will increase your metabolism, but that isn’t actually true as is. Your metabolism will only slow down if you skip quite a few meals, not just in the three to four hours it takes to go from meal to meal. This is why snacking won’t increase your metabolism, sadly.

Downsides of snacking

Those of us that are strictly or partly against snacking as a habit have quite some valid points too. It is worth noticing that snacking may cause plenty of trouble for our health. Here are some reasons why:

  • Since the time fatty snacks have become easily available to the masses, our waistlines have expanded quite a bit. This does not mean that crisps and candy bars alone are to blame of course, but it is a good indication that more meals might mean more weight for most of us.
  • Unless you strictly eat only healthy snacks, it is more probable that you will only add calories to your day with snacks and not the nutrients you want from your meals. This will make it less likely that you’ll achieve to eat all the nutrients you need.
  • Teaching your children to snack a lot has been proven to increase risk of obesity later on in their lives.

To snack or not to snack, that is the question?

Unless you can keep your snacks nutritious, like for instance in the form of nuts, fruit or yoghurt, you should probably not make snacking a daily routine for you. You can always eat a snack or two on a busy, low calorie day, but it is best to leave snacks for the times when you just can’t avoid them, like celebrations and socialization. This way you will also feel more pleased with every occasion when you can eat one of those rare snacks.

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