People worldwide consume food outside of the traditional 3 meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). However, what exactly is a “snack,” and should we be having one?
What is a Snack?
A snack is defined as “any food and/or caloric beverage consumed between regular meals” in “Snacks as an energy intake element and food consumption,” an article presented by the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. However, the definition can change from person to person. For example, depending on the time you’re eating the food, you may consider it a meal. Additionally, the location or environment in which the food is consumed impacts whether or not an individual counts it as a snack or meal. Finally, the type of food and amount also goes into whether the food consumed is considered a meal or snack.
Why Do We Snack?
Hunger is the number one reason for snacking, which seems obvious. However, when individuals snack in the absence of hunger, they tend to reach for foods higher in sugar, trans fats, and sodium. Those who snack with hunger go for more nutritionally dense snack options containing a good balance between carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Another reason for snacking is the environment. For example, if you see a coworker snacking, that may make you more inclined to snack, even if you are not hungry. A final reason for snacking is out of boredom, like when you are sitting scrolling through Twitter or when you’re watching TV. Snacking while doing these things can seem like second nature, but mindless snacking can oftentimes lead to overeating.
How to Choose a Better Snack
- The less processed, the better. Reach for whole fruits and veggies first, and then add in some protein/fats with nuts, low-fat cheese, or minimally processed jerky
- If you’re going to eat a bar, read the ingredient list. The bar should contain minimal ingredients and should definitely be free of additives and artificial preservatives. Some of my favorite bars are RXbars, KindBars, GoMacro Bars, EPIC Bars, and Larabars. They are all made with minimal ingredients and are low in added sugar content.
- Stir clear of any snack that is high in sugar, trans fat, and sodium.
- Combine macronutrients. Try having an apple and a handful of almonds, and a low-fat cheese stick. Or sliced veggies and hummus. The combinations are endless; just make sure you are sticking to the minimal ingredient rule.
- Ask yourself if you are really hungry or just bored. If you are starving, then 100% have a snack, but if you’re looking for something to do while watching TV, then you may want to rethink having a snack.
- Try out our minimally processed snacks like our Morning Glory Muffins or Peanut Butter Cookie Bites!
Author: Emily Kahn | Miami University | Class of 2022 | B.S. in Kinesiology and Nutrition | @ems.eatz.