Last week on the blog I discussed the evolution of snacking, where we are today and what the research says. Today I would like to discuss the actual disadvantages and advantages, in general terms.
Disadvantages of Snacking
- Weight Gain
- Inconvenient (healthy snacking)
- Constipation (unhealthy snacking)
- Dental Caries
In plain simple terms, the more you eat the more calories you are putting in your body. If you are eating more calories than your body is burning, you will gain weight. Bottom line! If you look back at the evolution of snacking, people were much more physically active on a day-to-day basis. Children played outside and many parents had more physically demanding jobs compared to video games and desk jobs. So called “snacks” between meals were easily burned off.
In terms of “healthy snacking”, research has shown that some think it is inconvenient. Those that already have difficulty finding time to prepare and cook main meals feel it is inconvenient to prepare healthy snacks compared to processed, shelf stable options. Planning snacks forces an individual to do extra grocery shopping, portion snacks, and spend time putting them together, and many would prefer to find snacks that are of the “grab & go” nature.
Snacking on “unhealthy snacks”, such as frequent fatty, low-fiber snacks can increase your chances of becoming constipated. Empty calorie snacks such as this are filled with fat and calories and are void of fiber. Examples could be cheddar cheese cubes, deli meats, candy bars and chips.
Defined as “eating small meals and/or snacks frequently instead of large meals infrequently” or “eat little and often”. The thought behind is to keep energy up and blood sugar stable as a tactic to avoid overeating unhealthy food. The problem is that the amount of food and the non-healthy options being chosen is not “little” and we have become a snack-obsessed society with a nation of “snackers”.
The minute certain foods (sugars and starches) are placed in your mouth, bacteria makes the tooth enamel more acidic, and the acid starts the process that can lead to cavities. The worst culprits are what they call “fermentable carbohydrates”. These start tooth decay and destroy teeth by increasing the pH in our mouths. Our mouths remain in that acidic state for about 20 minutes before returning to a neutral pH. The more we eat, the more frequent teeth are “attacked” and likely to decay. Examples of the biggest culprits include breads, crackers, bananas and cereals, as well as the more obvious: cookies, cakes, candy and soft drinks.
Advantages of Snacking
- Increased Energy & Nutrient Intake
- Appetite or Binge Control
- Satisfaction for Small Appetites
- Better Concentration
Increased Energy & Nutrients
A healthy snack made up of complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats increases your energy levels for a longer period of time more than sugary snacks do. This is because sugar increases your blood sugar, which is followed by a crash, leaving you hungry and lethargic. Include lean protein sources, good fats and fruits/vegetables will not only make a snack more nutrient dense, but will also keep you fuller because protein and fat gives you a feeling a satiety.
Appetite or Binge Control
Having a snack between meals can prevent you from becoming so hungry that you reach for unhealthy junk food. A healthy snack can keep your hunger at bay and allow you to stick to a moderate amount of food when you do eat your next main meal. Maintaining appropriate blood sugar levels will also help with binge control.
Satisfaction for Small Appetites
Children, as well as some adults, love small foods! For those little appetites that seem to prefer 6 small meals rather than 3 large ones can benefit greatly from healthy snacking as long as “snacks” don’t interfere with those meals that are providing the majority of nutrients to the diet. Children should always come to the kitchen table a little hungry!
Adding healthy snacks between meals increases focus and performance as indicated by research, both at school and work. Children are able to comprehend and retain information presented in t he classroom at a higher rate when their bodies are fueled consistently (according to the American Dietetic Association). Adults may find that eating a small snack in the afternoon gets them through their tasks more quickly and efficiently.
In part 3, we will discuss some tips and recipes for the ideal snack!
In good health,
© Jaime Windrow 2014