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February 2018 Issue

Snacking Isn’t Always the Answer

We’re a snacking nation. According to a Mintel survey, nearly all Americans (94 percent) snack at least once a day, and about half of adults snack two to three times per day. Many people think snacking is a healthy way to power up their day, and it certainly can be. If a small, healthful snack—say a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit—keeps you from overeating or splurging on the donut tray at work, then it’s a good thing. However, it’s easy to simply add snacking, especially mindless noshing at night in front of the screen, to regular-sized meals, thus upping the total number of calories consumed in a day.

Indeed, a new study from the University of Illinois found that limiting the number of times you eat during the day can lead to weight loss. Participants who restricted their food consumption to an eight-hour window of time during the day dropped their weight by 2.6 percent (one point on the body mass index) over three months. Interestingly, these participants were not told to restrict their caloric intake; the reduction in caloric intake occurred simply as a result of shortening the period of time spent eating during the day to an 8-hour period. The bottom line? Becoming more mindful about the number of times you eat food during the day is an important part of weight control.