Why snacking might be better for you

TORONTO – Three square meals a day used to be the way people ate, but there’s a new trend of frequent, smaller meals – think snacking – is gaining steam.

“It’s more smaller meals throughout the day. It’s all you have time to do,” said Torontonian Mark Widmeyer as he sat down to lunch.

One survey found the number of people who snacked three or more times a day rose to 56 per cent by 2010. In the 1990s, 20 per cent of people said they snacked frequently and in the 1970s, only 10 per cent of people snacked.

The study estimated 25 per cent of all meals consumed in Canada consist of snack food and beverages.

“I think snacking is on the rise while mealtime occasions like breakfast, lunch and dinner are on the decline. More people skipping meals and having snacks instead,” said Cara Rosenbloom, a registered dietitian.

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But is snacking healthy? Rosenbloom believes so.

“You can get all the nutrients you need during a day if you are having snacks as long as your snacks are made up of healthy foods that you would tend to eat at a meal,” she said.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein such as chicken, meat, eggs fish and dairy products are considered good snacks.

Rosenbloom says snacks should be 250-300 calories.

“A good snack has protein and fibre in it. Something like crackers with cheese, vegetables with a bean-based dip like hummus or fruit and granola,” she said.

A common mistake people make when snacking, she said, is to think they can treat themselves while snacking.

“There’s a big difference between snack and treat, a treat usually comes in a bag, box or package, usually has more sodium and sugar. More of the detrimental kinds of fat and a lot of additives, preservatives and food colourings. Things that we want to have less of in our overall diet.”

Of course, there are benefits to sitting down and sharing a meal with the family.

“When you’re cooking your food you know what ingredients are going into it,” Rosenbloom adds, “It’s a great way to teach children skills about healthy eating. It’s a great way to communicate with the family and talk about your day. Good food, good conversation, leads to good health.”