Snacking, the healthy way

Do you sometimes eat even when you’re not hungry? If you do, you’re like many North Americans whose snacking habits are starting to creep up on them, especially high-calorie and heavily-salted snacks.

Recent research has shown that snacking is sneaking more calories than ever before into our diets. The research shows that 25 per cent of calories now come from snacks, and we’re not talking about healthy snack items such as fruits, veggies, nuts and water. We’re talking about sugary and calorie-rich drinks and snacks that contain too much salt.

It has been proven that snacking is good for you, but when snacks become a source of excess calories, they can contribute to obesity. “In fact, while the average North American eats roughly the same amount of food during meals as in the 1970s, the number of calories they consume as snacks has increased to 580 calories per day, the equivalent of a fourth meal,” says Richard D. Mattes, a professor of nutrition at Purdue University.

Unfortunately, this can often be the case for university and college students. University and college settings offer new-found freedom for young adults. It means solo grocery shopping and meal preparation, without parental supervision. Even a harmless study break can be filled with calorie-rich foods if snacks are not properly planned ahead of time.

Keep in mind, snacking doesn’t have to be associated with junk food or high-calorie snack items. “Foods consumed outside a meal are important sources of nutrients as well as energy,” says Harvey Anderson, director of the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto.

The idea is to plan ahead when it comes to snacks and watch closely what you’re eating and drinking between meals. It’s okay to satisfy your 3 p.m. craving; just make sure you turn to unsalted mixed nuts, or a classic PB&J sandwich instead of a bag of chips. USA-grown peanuts, for example, will leave you feeling full and offer a host of health benefits, such as protein, fibre and essential vitamins and minerals.

Click here to read more about how to snack the healthy way.