Smart Snacking

Mindd Foundation

Why Is This Important?

On average, Americans make 200+ decisions about food daily, including choices about 2-3 snacks. These snacks account for, on average, 400-500 calories per day. Snacking is a huge part of most people’s diets, yet many of our decisions surrounding it are habitual and without conscious awareness. So, how should we be making these decisions? What should we be snacking on? Should we be snacking at all? And what is the significance behind our snacking habits?

The most commonly consumed snacks are not nutrient-dense but rather convenient foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Only about 5% of calories from snacks come from fruits or vegetables, meaning that snacks generally have low fiber and high sugar content, with 80% of grains consumed being refined. Considering our current obesity crisis, this means that many people are overconsuming calories from snacks without acquiring the proper nutritional benefits of that calorie surplus.

In children, snacking makes up about 27% of daily caloric intake and there has been a substantial increase in snacking habits over the past few decades. American children generally consume snacks that are high in calories but poor in nutrients, which is concerning considering that over 30% of children and adolescents are either overweight or obese.

Moreover, a majority of people in the western world are deficient in at least one or more key nutrients and/or vitamins. Over 92% of the U.S. population has a vitamin deficiency: 50% of Americans are deficient in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and magnesium. The figures are similar for Australia, with one in four Australian adults having vitamin D deficiency, 44% of men and 71% of women being low in calcium, and 38% of women showing inadequate levels of iron. So, while we are simultaneously experiencing an obesity crisis and poor-nutrition crisis, as well as a crisis in chronic illness, it is vital that we get smart and informed about what we are putting into our bodies. Read on to learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of snacking as well as tips for how to make the most out of it.

Key Factors

When considering snacking there are several factors that one must consider:

  • How much or often? Whether you choose to snack and how much/often you snack is a personalized decision that requires knowing your body well and consultation with a healthcare professional. A general rule of thumb is that a snack portion should be enough to satisfy but not interfere with your appetite for a meal or add too many extra calories. Generally 150-250 calories per snack is advisable (e.g. an apple with a spoon of peanut butter or a handful of nuts).
  • What time of day or night? A 2022 review indicated that consuming a majority of daily calories earlier in the day leads to more significant weight loss and improvements in insulin sensitivity, fasting blood sugar, and LDL cholesterol levels. This suggests that timing of calorie intake plays a crucial role in metabolic health.
  • The type of food that you consume? Frequently consuming ultra-processed foods—common in convenient snacking—also increases the risk of metabolic syndrome. These foods are typically high in sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars, but low in micronutrients and fiber. A study published in January of this year found that consumption of these foods leads to lower HDL cholesterol levels (“good” cholesterol), elevated blood pressure, higher fasting blood sugar levels, and increased triglycerides, all of which are biomarkers for metabolic syndrome.

Pros and Cons of Snacking


  • Increase satiety and reduce cravings: Frequent eating throughout the day may help control appetite and promote fullness. However, its effectiveness varies; some research indicates that it might not impact hunger levels or could even heighten the desire to eat.
  • Cardiovascular health: A study in Poland noted that eating four times a day could help lower triglyceride levels and boost HDL cholesterol, suggesting a cardiovascular benefit.
  • Provides boosts of energy
  • Can stabilize blood glucose levels
  • Provides extra nutrients when choosing certain healthy options
  • Can help maintain adequate nutrition if someone has a poor appetite but cannot eat full meals (often due to certain illnesses)


  • Weight Management/Obesity Risk: While snacking can be beneficial, it may contradict certain health goals, particularly weight management. Snacking, particularly between meals, is linked to an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome. A study published by Oxford University Press highlighted a 44% higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome among snackers, which escalated to 68% when the snacks were unhealthy. Conversely, no risk increase was observed with healthy snacks. The study attributed the higher risk mainly to a chronic increase in calorie intake from high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods.
  • Impact on Autophagy: Increasing the frequency of meals may interfere with autophagy, the body’s process of removing damaged cells and generating new ones. Snacking adds calories and reduces the intervals between meals, potentially diminishing the body’s opportunity for cellular cleanup and renewal.
  • Quality of Snacks: Deciding whether to snack depends on individual health goals and personal observations. If chosen, the health impact of snacking largely depends on the quality of the snacks consumed, emphasizing the importance of choosing nutrient-dense options over calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods.
  • Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome: Metabolic syndrome comprises conditions that heighten the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, contributing to numerous chronic health issues. A 2019 study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2009-2016) reported that 88% of adult Americans showed at least one metabolic syndrome condition, a figure that may have risen since then. The frequent intake of snacks, especially those that are ultra-processed, is closely linked to weight gain and related health issues.

How To Do It

  • Protein-Rich for Satiety: Studies show that snacks high in protein can help control hunger and reduce overall calorie intake. For example, women who ate high-protein yogurt as an afternoon snack reported feeling fuller longer and consumed fewer calories at dinner compared to those who ate crackers or chocolate.
  • Fiber’s Role in Reducing Hunger: Fiber-rich snacks, like prunes, have been proven to increase satiety more effectively than less fibrous options. In one study, participants who ate prunes reported less desire to eat between meals compared to those who ate a calorically equivalent piece of bread.
  • Fat and Whole Grains: While the impact of fat type on satiety is still unclear due to limited research, whole grains have been shown to be more effective at curbing hunger compared to other carbohydrates. Choosing snacks that combine high protein and fiber content can be particularly effective for managing hunger.
  • Healthy Snack Ideas: Opting for whole foods that are nutrient-dense is key for effective snacking. Some practical snack options around 150-200 calories include:
    • A cucumber sliced with a quarter cup of hummus
    • Two hard-boiled eggs with a cup of grape tomatoes
    • Six ounces of unsweetened plain yogurt with half a cup of berries
    • A sliced apple with unsweetened almond butter
    • Carrot sticks with four ounces of guacamole.
  • These choices provide a balance of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, making them superior to ultra-processed snack options.


  • Snacking Recommendations: While snacking can be an opportunity to incorporate more nutrients into the diet and manage hunger and energy, the benefit depends significantly on choosing the right snacks. The focus should be on what is consumed rather than when or how much

Mindd Foundation