Stuffing Chips - © Michael Moss - Salt Sugar Fat Book

Snacks Add Up To An Extra Meal: No Wonder We’re fat!

New research from Ohio State University (OSU) confirms something some of us have suspected for a long time. Snacking is making us fat – not our regular meals. The implication is, stop snacking, and we can cut enough calories to control our weight!

Nike Fat Kid Running Ad - © 2022 NikeMaybe easier than you think…

I wonder if the researchers behind all the scientific, clinical, lab-based studies of obesity just missed this one because it’s so obvious? I’ve often speculated that, if we stopped between-meal munching and eschewed coffee break eating, we could go a long way toward maintaining a healthy weight. Without pills, supplements, fad diets or ‘magic bullets’.

Now a team from  OSU has confirmed my suspicions…

What they did

Researchers analyzed data from surveys of 23,708 US adults over 30 years of age who had participated from 2005 to 2016 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The survey collected 24-hour dietary ‘recalls’ from each participant – detailing not just what, but when, all food was consumed.

Senior study author Christopher Taylor admitted that capturing 24 hours of food consumption doesn’t necessary reflect how people usually eat. But, “it gives us a really good snapshot of a large number of people.”

What they found

Americans average about 400 to 500 calories in snacks a day – often more than what they consumed at breakfast – that offered little nutritional value.

Among the whole survey sample, snacks accounted for between 19.5 percent and 22.4 percent of total daily energy intake – while contributing very little nutritional quality.

The takeaway

“Snacks are contributing a meal’s worth of intake to what we eat without it actually being a meal,” Taylor observes.

If you must snack, Taylor says, “We need to go from just less added sugar to healthier snacking patterns.”

A Holiday predicament

“Especially during the holidays, it’s all about the environment and what you have available, and planning accordingly,” Taylor explains. “And it’s about shopping behavior. 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.”

My take

Oh, what a timely tale for pre-Christmas week! And I think we can all relate to what Taylor is saying. In fact I can see casual snacking over the Holidays going through the roof – perhaps to the the of 2 extra meals or even more worth of Calories a day – just because sugary, nutrition-poor snacks are so much more available!

But even in ‘normal’ times, we’re obviously stuffing ourselves with empty calories which are going straight to our bellies and our buts!

Of all the scientific and socio-cultural studies I’ve seen – and reported on – addressing overweight and obesity, this theory has to be the most powerful and convincing one yet. And I can’t resist chalking up another big win to common sense!

The Bottom line? If snacking is an addictive activity that’s built into your daily routine, don’t try to stop. Just switch from doughnuts and sugary beverages to fresh fruits and veggies! And black coffee…

Wow… I feel lighter just writing that!

~ Maggie J.