The snack food industry can capitalize on studies such as the one published earlier this year in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Jan., 22, 2015). Researchers investigated the relationships of frequency and time of eating to energy density, nutrient quality and body mass index (BM)I using data from the International Study on Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure including 2,696 men and women aged 40 to 59 years from the United States and the United Kingdom [study design details are below].
Compared to participants with fewer than four eating occasions in 24 hours, those with six or more eating occasions in 24 hours had lower mean BMI (27.3 vs. 29), total energy intake (2,129 vs. 2,472 kcal/24 hours), dietary energy density (1.5 vs. 2.1 kcal/g) and higher Nutrient Rich Food Index 9.3 (34.3 vs. 28.1). In multiple regression analyses, higher evening intake relative to morning intake was directly associated with BMI; however, the researcher did say that this did not influence the relationship between eating frequency and BMI.
These results suggest that a larger number of small meals may be associated with improved diet quality and lower BMI.
Promoting healthy eating and weight management through snacking and smaller-sized meals spread throughout the day is a great angle for the snack and frozen food industries. Individually sized frozen pizzas, lunches and more make it easy for consumers to eat smaller, healthier meals throughout the day. Plus, they are convenient for work lunches or quick dinners after a long day. And, as snacks continue to lose their infamy, i.e., unhealthy and high in salt, fat and calories, and move into the light of a healthy halo, snack companies are engineering some very fun, very tasty and very healthy snacks. Check out our image gallery from last summer on healthy snack launches.
My current snack of choice is whole-grain, small-batch rosemary popcorn. Yum. What are you snacking on?
Study design: The International Study on Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure was a cross-sectional investigation with four 24-hour dietary recalls and BMI measurements conducted between 1996 and 1999. Consumption of solid foods was aggregated into eating occasion. Nutrient density is expressed using the Nutrient Rich Food Index 9.3. The ratio of evening/morning energy intake was calculated; mean values of four visits were used.