December 14, 2019
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Snacking as a way to improve healthy eating habits

The high prevalence of overweight people and obesity among the U.S. population has lead researchers to look at the possible associations between specific dietary patterns and weight status. Snacking is one dietary pattern that has been analyzed. Previous research on snacking has indicated that it may contribute to higher caloric intake which is a cause of obesity. Other studies, however, have demonstrated benefits of snacking, such as improved micronutrient and food group intake.

A recent article in Food Management claims that snacking has gained popularity. This isn’t rocket science, however, the article further explained that healthful snacking is becoming an accepted habit — which is welcome news and something to celebrate! New research reveals that one out of every five eating “occasions” is now a snack, and that consumers more and more are viewing snacking as a way to improve healthy eating habits. Research has revealed that consumers who follow the most healthful diets snack twice as often as those with less healthful diets.

Compared to data from five years ago, U.S. consumers are less likely to skip breakfast, lunch and dinner meals. These meals, however, are often smaller than in the past. The number of items consumed at each main meal has declined over time and consumers are snacking more often in-between meals.

Over the past several years the incidence of morning snacking has increased. The time of day of snacks has a significant effect on food choices. The top morning snack is fresh fruit, but the top afternoon or evening snack is still most often a candy bar. On a positive note, morning snack occasions now exceed afternoon snack occasions. The average number of snacks consumed per day has doubled, and the percentage of adults snacking on any given day has risen from 59 to 90 percent. It is important to note that the definition used for snacks or snacking occasions were distinct eating occasions that consisted of one or more food and beverage items, including plain water.

So what are people in the U.S. snacking on? According to Men’s Health, the list of the Top 50 snacks in America include: granola bars, Kashi cereal bars, Fiber One bars, raisin bread, soups, oatmeal, frozen snacks, granola, lean pockets, beef jerky, pretzels, popcorn, yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, string cheese, fruit smoothies, V8 juice, Triscuits, Kettle Cuisine Three Bean Chili, hummus, peanut butter, dried fruit, carrots and dip, sweet potato chips, etc. There are a variety of nutritious choices available — if you can’t find a snack on this list to please you there is just no pleasing you. For more information, visit and look for the 50 Best Snack Foods in America. At first I was skeptical about what kind of list would be available from Men’s Health, but actually it is quite a reasonable list, although much of the food is processed.

I would like to see more emphasis placed on making homemade snacks that people can take with them to work, school, etc. Here is a recipe to try.

Raspberries are a wonderful fruit — you could easily substitute blackberries in this recipe. Combine a raspberry bar with a glass of low fat milk or a string cheese for a balanced breakfast.

Packed with fiber, folate, potassium and iron, these easy-to-make raspberry bars are a perfect healthy snack or on-the-go-breakfast. Pressing the crumbs firmly into the pan and on top of the berry filling is important to make the bars hold together.

Whole Grain Raspberry Bars

Raspberry Filling

6 ounces or 1 ⅓ cups raspberries

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Breakfast Bars

1 ½ cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats

¾ cups whole wheat flour

⅔ cups packed brown sugar

⅓ cups walnut pieces

¼ cups wheat germ

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

⅓ cups canola or vegetable oil

1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the filling, combine raspberries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Simmer, stirring constantly, two minutes until sauce is thick and translucent. Remove from heat.

For the breakfast bars, combine oats, flour, sugar, walnuts, wheat germ and cinnamon in a food processor. Process until oats and walnuts are finely ground. Add oil and egg; pulse to evenly combine, scraping sides of work bowl. Press half of the crumb mixture evenly on bottom of a 9-by-9-inch baking pan. Spread raspberry filling evenly over crumbs. Top with remaining crumbs and pat down gently. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan. Cut into bars.

— Recipe from Driscoll’s

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at or email her at


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