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Healthy Snacking

Snacking forms an integral part of our everyday meals. At least once a day, we snack in between our meals while some end up replacing whole meals with snacks. What is the concept of snacking? How does it differ from full meals?

Snacks have been defined in many ways yet have a similar concept. These definitions include but are not limited to;

  • Snacks are small amounts of food consumed between meals (Ostermeier, et al., 2020)
  • Snacks are ready-to-eat foods commonly high in oil and flavoured with salty flavourings (Saldivar, 2016)
  • Snacks are easy-to-handle, miniature-portioned, hot or cold products in solid or liquid form which need little or no preparation consumed to satisfy occasional pangs of hunger (Bawa, A. S. & Sidhu, J. S., 2003)

Foods eaten as snacks should have a maximum calorie contribution of 250calories. However, most people snack more on energy dense foods and end up exceeding this upper limit further increasing their overall calorie requirement for each day.

Image from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/

Typical snack foods are energy-dense and nutrient-poor. In Ghana, common foods used as snacks include sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) such as cereal drinks, biscuits and crackers, cakes, plantain/cocoyam/potato/yam chips, pastries, toffees, and owing to recent trends in nutrition transition, various other imported snack foods. Healthy snack options consumed are yoghurt, sandwiches, eggs, groundnut, fruits, vegetables.

Some noted reasons for snacking in Ghana are hunger, weight loss, dislike for available foods and appetite for snacks. Affordability, accessibility and availability of certain snack foods and our mood also influence the habit of snacking.

The health implications of snacking are worth noting. Unhealthy snacking leads to weight gain, low diet quality and a generally poor nutrition status while healthy snacking is linked with a good diet quality; contributing to our daily fibre, vitamins, mineral and protein requirement.

Image from https://www.cspinet.org/

Strategies for healthy snacking

  • Opt for calorie-controlled snacks. It has been suggested that portion-controlled packages reduce total intake of energy from snacks.
  • Choose nutrient-dense options from the food groups e.g. fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, low-fat yoghurt
  • Keep away from processed snack foods. Do not purchase them home to reduce temptation and fulfilling cravings
  • Keep healthy snacks in your backpack, hand bag and office so that you do not have to buy unhealthier ones when outside the home
  • As always, stay hydrated. Drinking water could help reducing the frequency of snacking
  • Read food labels. When purchasing from the supermarket, read to choose options lower in sodium and salt.

REFERENCES

Abubakar, A., Issah, A.-N., Yussif, B., & Agbozo, F. (2023). Dietary habit, nutritional status and related factors among adolescents in Tamale Metropolis, Ghana. African Journal of Food Science, 17(1), 10–23. https://doi.org/10.5897/ajfs2021.2147

Bawa, A. S., & Sidhu, J. S. (2003). Snack Foods | Range on the market. Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 5322–5332. https://doi.org/10.1016/b0-12-227055-x/01096-8  

Ganpule, A., Dubey, M., Pandey, H., Srinivasapura Venkateshmurthy, N., Green, R., Ann Brown, K., Maddury, A. P., Khatkar, R., Jarhyan, P., Prabhakaran, D., & Mohan, S. (2023). Snacking behavior and association with metabolic risk factors in adults from north and South India. The Journal of Nutrition, 153(2), 523–531. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tjnut.2022.12.032  

Hess, J. M., Jonnalagadda, S. S., & Slavin, J. L. (2016). What is a snack, why do we snack, and how can we choose better snacks? A review of the definitions of snacking, motivations to snack, contributions to dietary intake, and recommendations for improvement. Advances in Nutrition, 7(3), 466–475. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.115.009571  

Ostermeier, R., Hill, K., Töpfl, S., & Jäger, H. (2020). Pulsed electric field as a sustainable tool for the production of healthy snacks. Pulsed Electric Fields to Obtain Healthier and Sustainable Food for Tomorrow, 103–128. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-816402-0.00005-7

Saldivar, S. O. S. (2016). Snack Foods: Types and composition. Encyclopedia of Food and Health, 13–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-384947-2.00633-4

Stroebele, N., Ogden, L. G., & Hill, J. O. (2009). Do calorie-controlled portion sizes of snacks reduce energy intake? Appetite, 52(3), 793–796. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2009.02.015  

Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/snacking/

Written By: Gillette Valentina Sylvia

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