Confused About Daily Calorie Intake? It Might Lead To ‘Obesity by Snacking’, Says Study

Today people snack more often, thinking that it will help them lose weight. After all, most diets recommend you break down your three larger meals in to six smaller ones. But, could snacking be the reason you’re packing on the pounds?

Today, a quarter of our calories are coming from snacks. In a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, it was stated that most people are motivated to snack because various weight loss diets recommend this. Most diets tell you that eating smaller and more frequent meals can help increase your metabolism. But the fact that smaller meals may mean different things to different people has a role to play here.

What Does Research Prove?

According to Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst from California, snacks to most people mean food they can quickly get hold of. However, this is not what dieticians mean when they recommend three meals and three snacks to a person battling obesity. Nutritionists advocate an eating plan that divides a person’s daily caloric need into six meals, not three. For a woman weighing 60kg, that would be consuming a total of 1,800 calories through the day, meaning that each meal must be no more than 300 calories. But unfortunately, people end up adding three snacks each of 250 to 300 calories to their otherwise 500 calorie main meals. That makes for a total of 2,400-2,600 calories per day. And herein lies the problem.

Researchers believe that people are simply overeating in the name of good health. Those from the University of North Carolina studied the eating patterns in Americans over four decades. And they revealed that while in the 70s, the average intake of an American citizen was 1,803 calories, it increased to 2,374 calories by 2006. And most of these people ended up consuming more calories because they added three snacks to their daily food intake. Dr Aine O’Connor for British Nutrition Foundation stated, “Many factors influence total energy intake that can lead to [being] overweight and obesity but it is possible that having more eating occasions through the day, for example by frequent snacking, would increase calorie consumption and so lead to weight gain.

The Verdict?

While it is essential to break down your daily caloric intake into smaller, more frequent meals, it is also very important to understand the need for healthy snacking. A bag of chips or a salad served with high-calorie dressing doesn’t make for an ideal snack. The trouble arises from the fact that there is no universally agreed definition of a snack. The Booth Hypothesis of 1988 suggested that the growing trend for snacking, encouraged by various weight loss diets, is the biggest reason for increasing obesity. But it doesn’t always have to be so. Understanding the difference between ‘good snacks’ and ‘bad snacks’ may be just what an overweight person needs to make the right choice.

It is also important to ensure that the three recommended snacks per day contribute no more than 300 to 500 calories to your daily caloric intake. While an apple, a small cup of yogurt and a handful of nuts make for an ideal snack, things like a bag of low fat chips, a sliver of pie and a small burger do not make for healthy snacks. Talk to your dietician at length and get a list of recommended healthy snacks in order to stick to your weight loss goals.