Stuffing Chips - © Michael Moss - Salt Sugar Fat Book

‘Bad Snacking’: A New Dimension In Unhealthy Eating

We’ve examined the especially sorry state of diet vis à vis health in the UK before in this space. More than once. But those crafty (?) Brits have come up with yet another diet and nutrition disaster: Crappy snacks cancelling out healthy eating…

Brit Men Fat - © IndependentCrappy snacks are convenient and relatively cheap – and they satisfy our
cravings for salt, sugar and fat. But they may be cancelling out
the benefits we accrue by eating healthy at meal times…

The issue

A patricularly appropriate BBC article opens with this stark, shocking truth: “No European country is on track to stop obesity rising by 2025, the WHO (World Health Organization) says. […] Nearly 60 percent of adults and a third of children are overweight or obese – and the Covid pandemic has made that worse.”

The WHO European Regional Obesity Report 2022 brings us many worrying findings, not the least of which is that Europe and the UK are second only to the United States in overweight and obesity. And WHO tells us that obesity is the root cause of more than 1.2 million deaths – a third of all deaths – in Europe each year. Overweight and obesity have been widely implicated as causal in 13 types of cancer, heart disease, some lung diseases, and type 2 diabetes.

The problem

Recent surveys show that 25 percent – one in 4 – UK residents who have made the effort to eat healthy and attack their weight issues are cancelling out any gains they might make by stuffing themselves between meals with ‘bad’ snacks.

The survey showed that the UK is a nation of snackers, with 24 percent of their daily energy intake from snacks such as cereal bars, pastries and fruit. The average daily snack intake in people who snack – 95 of those surveyed – was 2.28 snacks a day. Almost half – 47 pecent – of people ate two snacks a day, and 29 percent of people ate more than two.

The solution

The solution to the problem is simple. But it’s going to be really hard to implement…

Dr Sarah Berry from King’s College London says: “Considering 95 percent of us snack, and that nearly a quarter of our calories come from snacks, swapping unhealthy snacks such as cookies, crisps [salty snacks] and cakes to healthy snacks like fruit and nuts is a really simple way to improve your health.”

Considering the overarching reality that humans are hard-wired to crave salt, fat and sugar, weaning the snacking population off their ‘fix’ won’t be easy. Fruits and nuts just can’t match junk food for snacking ‘appeal’.

Mitigating factors

Not all snacking is bad. We’ve already heard Dr Berry’s suggestion that we snack on fresh fruit, and nuts. Maybe even those grand old standbys: raw carrots and celery. But satisfying one’s cravings with healthy foods is not an option for most folks, considering their previously-unheard-of stratospheric prices…

Timing of snacking may be associated with amplified deleterious health effects. Analysis showed snacking after 9 pm was associated with poorer blood markers compared to all other snacking times. Snackers at this time tended to choose energy-dense foods which were high in fat and sugar.

My take

I hinted earlier in this post that I’m skeptical about Dr Berry’s simple (albeit potentially effective) solution to the problem of ‘bad snacking’. The cost of healthy foods that might fall under the ‘snacks’ umbrella are unimaginably high in the UK, and almost as costly across the EU. And as I also mentioned, folks just don’t crave fruits and veggies, and nuts the way they do junk food.

The bottom line is, Dr Berry and her colleagues have come up with some pretty stark statistics on ‘bad snacking’. But they haven’t proposed a realistic, affordable way to address the issue.

~ Maggie J.