Study Reports that Infrequent Snacking Can Increase BMI

By: CONNIE K. HO

There’s good snacking and then there’s bad snacking. Eating out of stress or an emotional cause–bad snacking. Eating to increase energy and stamina – good snacking. A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition reported that less frequent eating predicts a greater body mass index (BMI) in young females.

The study collected data from 2,372 girls over a two year period. The results showed that those who had lower initial snack and total meal frequencies had a greater increase in BMI and a larger waist circumference. According to the National Institute of Health, BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. BMI categories range from underweight to obese and can be found with the help of BMI calculators or tables.

Apart from the study that shows the advantages to healthy snacking, others who have attempted to eat small portions throughout the day have seen the benefits. Sukhpreet Kaur, a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided early on to integrate five small meals into her daily diet. She hoped that it would help her maintain a more balanced lifestyle and manage her eating habits.

“It was definitely difficult to make the adjustments needed to follow the five small meals routine at first,” says Kaur. “But after about two weeks or so, it just became a habit. I felt energized throughout the day and I did not get tired as easily and definitely didn’t eat huge amounts at the end of the day after going without eating almost the whole day. The only issue was to make sure that I prepared my snacks and a food menu for the week during the weekend and did my grocery shopping on time, which include tons of vegetables and fruits.”

The problem that arises in healthy snacking for those like Kaur is the difficulty in finding the correct snacks to eat. Mindy Sapilewski, a registered dietician, recommends looking at snacks in terms of calories rather than portion size. For example, it’s better to eat more carrots than more potato chips because carrots have less calories then chips.

Sapilewski believes that it’s best to eat three meal and two snacks or five small meals, depending on the person. Healthy snack options include greek yogurt (provides protein and calcium), low fat white cheese (provides protein and calcium), nuts like almonds and cashews (provides protein), as well as lots of fruits and vegetables.

“The theory behind frequent eating ties into metabolism,” says Sapilewski. “Your metabolism is like keeping gas in your car – the more frequently you eat, the more control you have over your metabolism. Your body uses food for energy, it keeps you going. If you overeat, your body can’t use all that and it becomes fat.”

For those interested in healthy snacking, there are resources online that can help people find the snacks that will work for their nutritional goals. Websites such as choosemyplate.gov provide calorie information on different food groups and also calculate individual health goals based on family history, diet, and activity level.

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Categories: Home, Sections, Your Health News, Your Lifestyle, Your Nutrition

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