Posted on Dec 18, 2023, 2 p.m.
According to an analysis of data from 23,708 adults aged 30+ who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 to 2016, Americans average eating about 400-500 calories per day in snacks alone, and this is often more than what they consumed during breakfast, and it offered little nutritional value.
However, participants who were controlling their type 2 diabetes ate less sugary food and overall snacked less than those without diabetes, and those whose blood sugar levels indicated that they were prediabetic. The findings from this study have been published in PLOS Global Public Health.
Most dietitians are aware of the average American’s propensity to nosh/snack, "the magnitude of the impact isn't realized until you actually look at it," said senior study author Christopher Taylor, professor of medical dietetics in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at The Ohio State University.
"Snacks are contributing a meal's worth of intake to what we eat without it actually being a meal," Taylor said. "You know what dinner is going to be: a protein, a side dish or two. But if you eat a meal of what you eat for snacks, it becomes a completely different scenario of, generally, carbohydrates, sugars, not much protein, not much fruit, not a vegetable. So it's not a fully well-rounded meal."
"Diabetes education looks like it's working, but we might need to bump education back to people who are at risk for diabetes and even to people with normal blood glucose levels to start improving dietary behaviors before people develop chronic disease," Taylor said.
This study collected 24-hour dietary recalls from the participants detailing what and when all food was consumed. Participants were categorized into 4 groups: nondiabetes, prediabetes, controlled diabetes, and poorly controlled diabetes.
According to the researchers, the analysis revealed that snacks accounted for 19.5% to 22.4% of participants' total energy intake, but they contributed very little nutritional quality. The researchers noted that capturing 24 hours of food consumption does not necessarily reflect how people typically eat, but it does provide a good snapshot of a large number of people. "And that can help us understand what's going on, where nutritional gaps might be and the education we can provide,” said Taylor.
In descending order of proportion, the snacks consisted of: convenience foods high in carbohydrates and fats, sweets, alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic drinks including sugar-sweetened beverages, protein, milk and dairy, fruits, grains, and, lagging far behind at the bottom of the list was vegetables.
The fact that those with diabetes made healthier snacking choices indicated that dietary education is effective for those with the disease. But this information is beneficial for everyone to use, and it is more than just cutting back on sugar and carbs. For example, rather than offering tips on more healthful snack options, it may be better to look at a day’s total dietary intake to see whether snacks help to reach our nutritional needs.
"We need to go from just less added sugar to healthier snacking patterns," said Taylor. "When you take something out, you have to put something back in, and the substitution becomes just as important as the removal."
"Especially during the holidays, it's all about the environment and what you have available and planning accordingly. And it's about shopping behavior: What do we have in the home?" said Taylor. "We think about what we're going to pack for lunch and cook for dinner. But we don't plan that way for our snacks. So, then you're at the mercy of what's available in your environment."
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
Content may be edited for style and length.
References/Sources/Materials provided by:
T.W. at WHN