Diet dangers of high kilojoule snacks
Snacking can make a significant contribution to your total daily kilojoule intake, especially if you snack on high kilojoule foods. Some examples of high kilojoule snack foods include biscuits, potato crisps, soft drinks, flavoured milks, muesli bars, chocolate and pastries. International research conducted in developed countries such as the US and UK show that more than 90% of adults consume snack foods between meals on a daily basis. The increasing availability of convenient snack foods, and the common habit of snacking between meals has led to a growing interest in the role that snacking plays in the development of excess body fat. More specifically, recent research has focused on the impact that certain snack foods have on filling you up, which can ultimately determine just how much you consume.
The sensory attributes of snack foods such as odour, taste, flavour intensity, texture, colour and shape may have an important influence on consumption because of sensory-specific satiety (SSS).
SSS refers to the declining satisfaction in the pleasantness of a food you are eating relative to that of an uneaten food, which contributes to the termination of eating. In other words, you may feel satisfied from an afternoon snack and feel like you’ve had enough, but you are still hungry for dinner. Traditionally, foods with many sensory attributes, that are strong in flavours and scents tend to be more satisfying. Research reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at how SSS can change over time, and the impact this can have on body fat levels.
Subjects snacked daily on three kilojoule-dense snack foods (hazelnuts, chocolate, and potato crisps) for 12 weeks. The researchers found that regular consumption of high kilojoule-dense snack foods resulted in a decrease in SSS. This has the potential to be fattening as the reduced satiety could lead to a higher kilojoule intake from the snack.
It was suggested that people may become accustomed to the snack after repeated exposure, and a higher intake may be required to be satisfied. The researchers also cited a previous study to help explain this phenomenon, reporting that the consumption of a high-fat diet for at least four weeks significantly decreased the taste sensitivity of fatty foods. In other words, desensitisation may also play a role in the reduction in SSS.
What it means for your snacking habits
This study has important implications for people attempting to manage their weight and eat a healthy diet. Following are some practical tips and snacking guidelines that may help to better control your weight.
- Avoid high kilojoule snacks – If you snack between meals, try to avoid high kilojoule snacks like potato crisps and chocolate. Nuts could also be considered a high kilojoule snack, although research has shown they are more resistant to monotony than other high kilojoule snacks.
- If you indulge, do so infrequently – The more often you eat high kilojoule snacks, the less likely they are to satisfy you. In other words, it gets harder to say no the more frequently you have them. If you do treat yourself with high kilojoule snacks, try to do so infrequently, which could be described as once a week or less.
- Choose healthy snacks – If you like to snack between meals, try to focus on low kilojoule snacks such as vegetable sticks, vegetable based dips (non-creamy), vegetable-based broth soups and diet yoghurt. A half serving of a protein shake can also serve as a quick and easy filler between meals.
- Move more if you snack more – Physical activity helps to burn off the excess kilojoules you consume through snacking. Try to snack only on days you exercise, and don’t have big servings of snacks on the days you do exercise.
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