Debunking a common myth: Snacking can be good for you

Is snacking bad for you? Your first instinct may be to agree with this statement, but don’t be too quick to judge. Read on and you just might be surprised at what you can learn about snacking.

According to researchers at Auburn University and Beijing University, snacking can be associated with a more nutrient-dense diet, as found in a study that examined the association between snacking frequency and overall diet quality. For the study, diet quality was assessed using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Health Eating Index-2005 (HEI-2005), which measures diet quality and conformance to federal dietary guidance. For this particular study, the HEI-2005 produced scores that were assigned to each variable. Overall, the study found that total fruit, whole fruit, whole grains, oils, sodium and milk (HEI-2005) scores were all positively associated with snacking frequency.

Among other findings, adults’ snacking behaviour has increased considerably over the past 30 years. Perhaps you’re not relying on the traditional three-meals-a-day protocol, but are instead grabbing frequent snacks to keep full and satisfied. If you find yourself in the latter group, you’re in luck.

Contrary to popular belief, snacking has been found to be associated with a more healthful sodium score, which goes against what researchers expected to find. Another important finding suggests that individuals do choose fruits, milk and whole grain products as snacks, and that this behaviour should continue to be reinforced.

Snacking can be a part of a healthy diet – it’s simply a matter of choosing the right foods. Peanuts and peanut butter, for example, have long been snacking favourites among adults and children alike. Peanuts have more protein than any other nut. They also have a unique combination of fibre and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, so they help keep you feeling full and satisfied. Peanuts and peanut butter also offer tremendous shopping value, even in difficult economic times. Remember, look for the ‘good’ calories, not the ‘empty’ calories when it comes to snacking.