Some diet plans advocate eating snacks in order to avoid overeating at regular meal times. However, research from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle suggests the value of snacking really depends on a person's hunger.
The study included 123 adult women, ages 50-75, who were overweight or obese. They were randomly assigned to a diet that restricted calories or diet plus exercise. They were not given any special instructions regarding snacking.
When researchers analyzed the data on snacking habits, they found midmorning snackers lost an average of 7% of their body weight, while those who ate a healthy breakfast but did not eat food or drink a beverage between breakfast and lunch lost 11% of their body weight.
It could be that midmorning snacking reflects "mindless" eating habits rather than the eating driven by hunger, the lead author of the study, Dr. Anne McTiernan, said in a news release.
"We think this finding may not relate necessarily to the time of day one snacks, but rather to the short interval between breakfast and lunch," she said.
Snacking can support diet goals if you are eating because you're really hungry, she added.
The study also found that women who snacked in the afternoon were more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables compared to women who didn't snack in the afternoon.
If people choose to snack, it should be to satisfy hunger and the snack should be healthy, McTiernan said, such as low-fat yogurt, sting cheese, a few nuts, vegetables, fresh fruit, whole-grain crackers and non-caloric beverages such as coffee or tea.
The study is published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
From the November 30, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.