Our Snack Habit: One-Third Of Daily Calories Are From Junk Food by Candy Sagon AARP
*Americans are addicted to snacking.
That’s the bottom line from a new government report looking at the snacking habits of more than 5,000 adults aged 20 and older.
Researchers with the USDA’s Food Surveys Research Group interviewed the participants as part of an ongoing national survey called “What We Eat in America.” The results from those surveys are reported in two-year intervals.
The survey found that a sizable chunk of our daily calories come from serial snacking during the day, mostly on processed junk food high in fat and added sugars.
This is not to say that all snacking is bad. For older adults who may not be getting adequate amounts of protein and nutrients in their diet, nutritious snacks can play an important role in making sure they eat enough healthy food, studies of people 65 and older have shown.
However, for overweight adults for whom salty, sugary junk food is their dietary downfall, switching out those empty calories for more nutritious choices — like fresh fruit — is an easy way to cut back on calories while increasing important nutrients.
Here’s the results from the federal survey:
*One-third of our daily calories come from snacks with little or no nutrients. Empty calories from snacks account for about 32 percent of daily calories consumed by women, and about 31 percent of the daily calories consumed by men.
*The average intake of empty calories for men surveyed was 923 calories per day. In other words, men, on average, are eating two to three times their limit in calories from solid fats and added sugars (caloric sweeteners added to foods during processing).
*For women, the average intake of empty calories was 624 calories daily. Women, on average, are consuming almost two to four times their limit of calories from fats and added sugars.
*Snacking in the U.S. has increased in recent decades, while (not surprisingly) percentages of the population who are overweight and obese and have also increased.
*The one bit of good news: The researchers found that one-third of Americans’ daily fruit intake — which is still lower than recommended — is through snacking.
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