When it comes to snacking, timing is almost everything – dpa international



The ‘healthy snack’ shelves in a supermarket in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

Those pistachio nuts in the bowl on the coffee table, the half eaten bag of Bombay Mix in the cupboard, the tube of Pringles wedged between the cushion and the armrest.

Even before the first hunger pangs kick in and the scent of dinner being cooked wafts from the kitchen, it can be hard to keep hands away from the crisps and cookies and whatever other nibbles are left around the house.

Snacking has typically been regarded as unhealthy: at best it interferes with the three meals a day regimen, at worst it leads to a diet with too much processed food and items laden with salt, fat, sugar, preservatives and additives.

Turns out that snacking – which makes up a fifth of calorie intake in Western nations, according to some estimates – is not always bad for you.

Nibbling on healthy food items – even between meals, as snackers are wont to do – is not necessarily a bad thing.

That’s according to research into the eating habits of around 1,000 people carried out by King’s College London and presented at the American Society of Nutrition conference in Boston.

But absent-mindedly scoffing unhealthy food and ignoring the time-tested rule about not eating close to bedtime? Those remain taboo.

“Our study showed that the quality of snacking is more important than the quantity or frequency of snacking, thus choosing high quality snacks over highly processed snacks is likely beneficial,” said Kate Bermingham, a postdoctoral fellow at KCL.

And for those who tend to give in to late-night urges to raid the fridge, “think again” is the message, no matter how healthy the nocturnal nibble.

“Timing is also important, with late night snacking being unfavorable for health,” Bermingham warned.

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