What is a healthy snack ?

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).

YINI-Digest4.1More 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).

4. Haveman-Nies A, de Groot LP, van Staveren WA. Snack patterns of older Europeans. J Am Diet Assoc. 1998 Nov;98(11):1297-302.
5. Jean Adams, Marilyn O’Keeffe and Ashley Adamson. Change in snacking habits and obesity over 20 years in children aged 11 to 12 years. Project NO9 019 (Jan-Sept 2005)
6. Stroehla BC, Malcoe LH, Velie EM. Dietary sources of nutrients among rural Native American and white children. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005 Dec;105(12):1908-16.
7. Jean M. Kerver, Eun Ju Yang, Saori Obayashi, Leonard Bianchi, Won O. Song. Meal and Snack Patterns Are Associated with Dietary Intake of Energy and Nutrientsin US Adults. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106:46-53.
8. Sameera A. Talegawkar, Elizabeth J. Johnson, Teresa Carithers, Herman A. Taylor Jr., Margaret L. Bogle, and Katherine L. Tucker3. Total a-Tocopherol Intakes Are Associated with Serum a-Tocopherol Concentrations in African American Adults. J. Nutr. 137: 2297–2303, 2007.
9. Gibson S, Ashwell M. Dietary patterns among British adults: compatibility with dietary guidelines for salt/sodium, fat, saturated fat and sugars. Public Health Nutr. 2011 Aug;14(8):1323-36. doi: 10.1017/S1368980011000875. Epub 2011 May 6.
10. T. R. Kirk. Role of dietary carbohydrate and frequent eating in body-weight control.
Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2000), 59, 349–358

Pin It on Pinterest