Eating healthier meals is a great start, but what about the snacks? According to a recent study, one in four people may be undoing the benefits of healthy eating by choosing ultra-processed and sugary snacks. Senior author Sarah Berry, a researcher at King’s College London, suggests that swapping unhealthy snacks such as cookies and crisps for healthier options like fruit and nuts can be a simple way to improve one’s health.
The study found that over 25 percent of participants reported eating healthy main meals but snacking on highly processed foods and sugary treats, which can increase hunger. In the United States, over 90 percent of adults report eating one or more snacks every day, while in the UK, 47 percent of participants ate two snacks daily. This research highlights the importance of making smart snack choices.
Dr. David Katz, a specialist in preventive and lifestyle medicine and nutrition, explains that we should think of our food environment the same way we think about protecting ourselves from bad weather. Just as we use a coat when it’s cold or an umbrella when it rains, we should protect ourselves from the “climate” of junk food and make an effort to eat well.
The study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, analyzed the snacking habits of 854 participants. It found that eating poor snack choices was associated with higher BMI, visceral fat mass, and triglyceride concentrations – all factors linked to metabolic diseases like stroke, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
The timing of snacking was also crucial. Snacking after 9 p.m. was linked to consuming calorie-dense foods high in fat and sugar, leading to worse blood markers and a higher risk of chronic diseases compared to those who snacked earlier in the day.
However, not all snacking is unhealthy. Those who frequently ate high-quality snacks like nuts and fresh fruit were more likely to have a healthy weight compared to non-snackers or those who opted for unhealthy foods.
To make healthier snack choices, Dr. Katz suggests having convenient and nutritious foods on hand at all times. This way, you have control over what you eat, even when you’re on the go. He recommends packing an insulated snack pack with items like nuts, fresh fruit, dried fruit, and hummus.
In conclusion, choosing healthier snacks is a simple yet effective way to improve our overall health. By making mindful choices and being aware of when we snack, we can maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
– European Journal of Nutrition