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Physiol Behav. 2014 Jul;134:32-7. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.01.034. Epub 2014 Feb 8.

Healthy snacking recommendations: one size does not fit all.

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Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Hospitality Management, 101 PSB, Auburn, AL 36849-5605, United States. Electronic address:


An underlying factor contributing to a lack of consensus in the scientific literature regarding the health effects of snacking may be the diversity of study populations. In fact, the influence of snacking likely varies with different target populations. Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that snacking may make important contributions to a healthy diet, especially among older adults (≥65 years). However, these dietary behaviors may have a different consequence among adults (18-60 years) experiencing psychosocial stress as measured by food insecurity. Food insecurity refers to the condition in which individuals do not have access at all times to enough food for an active, healthful life. Another reason for a lack of consensus regarding the effects of snacking is that reports describing the contribution of snacking to the diet of adults have generally focused on single nutrients. Because of the complexity of dietary intake and the possible interaction of nutrients, it is often difficult to attribute health outcomes to the effects of a single dietary component. Thus, the relationship between snacking frequency and overall dietary quality among adults (≥20 years) will be described. Developing recommendations regarding snacking and meal frequency is extremely problematic for numerous reasons. One universal dietary recommendation regarding snacking and meal frequency is not appropriate for every life-stage group. Also, research has demonstrated that individuals view snacking as an unhealthy behavior. Because individuals are more likely to acknowledge, integrate, and act on nutrition knowledge that corresponds with their existing knowledge, changing dietary behaviors with messages containing the term snacking may be ill-conceived. Descriptive alternatives to the term snacking are needed in developing messages for health promotion campaigns.


Dietary behavior; Eating occasion; Meal; Population

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