Thrive-Health Guide Southern West Virginia August 2020 - Page 4

Sensible Snacking ADVICE FOR HEALTHFUL EATING HABITS By Connie Gottshall, MS, RDN, LD We have become a nation of “nibblers.” According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, between 1977-1978 and 2007-2008, the percentage of adults who snacked regularly increased from 59% to 90%. Snacking now accounts for up to 25% of our daily caloric intake, and sometimes replaces the evening meal. The favorites most sought after in North America, reported by a 2014 Neilsen report, are chips, chocolate and cheese. Fresh fruit landed fifth in popularity. It has become a popular notion that eating smaller, more frequent meals, such as six small meals a day, is a healthier approach than the traditional three square meals per day. Many people believe that eating more often may help keep their hunger under better control and their metabolism revved up. Health experts are concerned, however, that eating more frequently promotes overeating and weight gain. Though research is somewhat limited and often conflicting, the majority of studies available suggest that eating more than three times each day provides minimal, if any, advantage in controlling appetite or the amount of food consumed. Skipping meals altogether, on the other hand, may make it difficult to control one’s appetite. While the jury is still out as to whether eating smaller amounts more often promotes weight loss, there are medical conditions which may be adversely impacted by an overly full stomach or large gaps between meals. The following are situations when consuming less food more often may be helpful or medically-indicated: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), where having a full stomach makes breathing more difficult; gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), usually signaled by heartburn; gastric bypass surgery, especially during the months right after surgery; gastroparesis (delaying stomach emptying), often found in people with diabetes; and reactive hypoglycemia, in which blood sugar drops below normal (less than 70 mg/dL) within two to four hours following a meal. It is important to analyze why we feel the need to snack. Is it due to hunger or is it a habit? In addition to feeling that it is healthful to do so, people often snack to satisfy cravings for sweet or salty foods, to boost nutrient intake, to control weight, to pass the time, or to deal with emotional upset. Increased exposure to snack foods has no doubt led to more snacking in this country; we are now bombarded at gas stations and most stores with quick, convenient, “grab and go” options such as granola bars, prepared smoothies, prepackaged cheese and crackers, trail mix, and dried fruit 4 • THRIVE • AUGUST 2020