Grabbing a quick bite to stave off hunger between meals may seem like a good dieting strategy, but that appears to depend on timing, according to a study in the current issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
A team of researchers, led by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle,studied a total of 123 “overweight-to-obese,” postmenopausal women who were dieting. The vast majority (97 percent) of the women, who were following one of two diet regimens, ate one or more snacks during the day.
The women who regularly ate mid-morning snacks between breakfast and lunch lost significantly less weight – 7 percent compared with 11.4 percent – than those who didn’t eat between those two meals.
The women who said they ate two or more snacks per day had higher fiber intake. However, afternoon snackers ate more fruit and vegetables than those who snacked at other times. It appears that timing of between meal snacks rather than the actual snacking affected the participants’ weight loss.
“These results suggest that snack meals can be a source for additional fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich foods; however, snacking patterns might also reflect unhealthy eating habits and impede weight-loss progress,” the researchers concluded.
“We think this finding may not relate necessarily to the time of day one snacks, but rather to the short interval between breakfast and lunch,” said Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD of the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences Division and a coauthor of the study. “Snacking could be part of a dieter’s toolkit if they’re eating in response to true hunger. Individuals should determine if they experience long intervals – such as more than five hours – between meals. Adding a snack might help people deal better with hunger and ultimately help them to make more sound choices at their next meal.”