To snack or not to snack – nutrient intakes and energy for activity
How snacking influences nutrient intakes
It is important to look at the overall contribution of snacks and whether they provide a nutrient dense addition to the diet, or whether they are a source of what’s often called “empty calories”.
Some studies show that eating snacks has been linked to greater intakes of vitamins and minerals (4-8). In a study of UK children aged 11–12, Adams et al. (5) found no evidence to suggest the nutrient composition of snacks was any more or less healthy than that of foods eaten during meals. Perhaps surprisingly, snacking may also not lead to a higher intake of sodium (salt), as the sodium contribution from meals (from foods such as bread, cheese and cured meats) has been associated with higher sodium intakes (9).
More research is needed, but based on current evidence, snacking and increased eating frequency may not be necessarily detrimental to diet quality and may be associated with a higher nutrient intake. However, careful snack choice by individuals remains important to avoid the risk of excessive intakes of energy, fat, sugar or salt (2).
Snacking and energy for activity
Snacking may help to provide the energy needed to maintain an active lifestyle and increase the motivation to be physically active – for example, by avoiding the gastric discomfort and lethargy that can be experienced after consuming large meals (10).