‘Healthy’ Snacking Is Ruining Your Efforts to Be Healthy
Why you should consider changing your dietary M.O.
Obesity has exploded across the developed world and could become the single greatest threat to our health. In the U.S., nearly 40% of adults are obese and over 29% are obese in the U.K. Hospital admissions directly related to obesity have increased. The condition is shortening lives and reducing quality of life everywhere you look.
The increase in obesity is mirrored by our snacking habits, which have piled up over a 30 year period (1977/78–2007/08). In the United States, the frequency of eating between meals has had second helpings, more than doubling from 1.0 to 2.2 snacks per day. The percentage of adults who snack daily has expanded from 59% to a whopping 90%. In the late 1970s, about 40% of American adults said they didn’t snack at all during the day. By 2007, that figure was just 10%. These stats are more than a decade old, so we’ll have to wait for the hard data on how things have progressed since then, but as a longtime nutritionist, I have my suspicions.
Real, nutrient-dense meals — prepared at home and served at the table — have been hijacked by snacking, but worse than that, by snack foods.
When I first entered the world of nutrition in 2003, I was taught to encourage six meals per day to “keep the metabolism ticking over.” This allows people to imagine their body as a car engine, starting up each morning, burning through those calories — a nice visual though factually incorrect.
The consensus advice to consume “healthy” snacks is problematic, too. A closer look published by the Journal of Nutrition in 2009 found that snacking had increased “significantly” over the prior three decades, with the vast majority of the foods being eaten as snacks considered unhealthy. The paper’s authors say:
“Depending on serving size definition, 80.0–91.5% of snack foods were ‘unhealthy’ (by the school nutrition standard), including seven of 11 wholegrain products. A…