Is snacking healthy? It all depends. One of the more obvious features of the Western lifestyle is the snack. We snack on the run, we snack at our desks and we snack in the car. It is one of the reasons we are eating more calories than we were 30 years ago – a lot more calories. The average daily intake in the US has increased by almost one third in the last 30 years. It has gone up from 1803 calories in 1977-1978 to 2374 calories in 2003 – 06. Today it may be even more.
Nobody died of starvation in 1977-1978. So what happens to those extra 571 calories we eat each day? You know the answer – they make us fat. Not just fat, obese. There are 70 million obese people in the US. This is not just a health issue – many obese people get sick, and have shorter lives than thinner people, it is an environmental issue and an economic one which affects everybody.
We need to produce those extra 571 calories per person per day just to keep us at out present weight. Remember the average is everybody, not just obese people. On 1977 figures it is like feeding an additional 100 million people. That is more than the size of the population of Germany. Fine if there actually were an extra 100 million people working and producing goods for the nation, but there are not. This of course is where the economic problem comes in, we are in effect feeding more people with the same resources.
So there we have the result of putting on weight, snacking is one of the causes. The other cause is the size of our portions. These have also increased since 1977-78. The answer to snacking is simple enough. You don’t have to cut out snacks completely, just change what you eat. An apple is better than a packet of crisps, a banana better than a muffin. Remember that sugary snacks do not only make you fat. They can damage your teeth as a well and dentists cost money.
Portion size is easily resolved. You don’t need giant portions – nobody needs giant portions. What you should be doing is eating five small portions a day rather than three big ones. Never cut out breakfast, do that and you will really hit the snacks mid-morning. It’s easy enough to lose weight; just a small lifestyle change and you are on your way. It is a good idea to exercise for 30 minutes a day as well as dropping your portion size and reducing the snacks. Take a walk round the block or in the park, maybe a cycle ride or a swim. You don’t need to go to a gym to exercise.
So is snacking healthy? Done right it is; eat fruit instead of junk for your snacks and you will be well on the way to losing weight. If enough people snack the right way we may even save the planet.
See you soon,
3 July 2011
Photo. Cherokeemug (Flicr)