Snack or treat?

Snack or treat?

Nutritionist Nikki Hart
Nutritionist Nikki Hart

Balancing snacks and treats is a challenge for many people but the secret is in identifying them, according to food and nutrition expert Nikki Hart in a new video on healthy eating released by the New Zealand Food & Grocery Council.

The four-minute video shows that all foods and beverages can fit within a person’s overall pattern of intake but only if the intake is balanced within their needs. Entitled ‘Snacks vs Treats’, it’s the second in a four-part series commissioned by FGC from Nikki Hart, a trained dietitian and Registered Nutritionist, who offers practical tips on healthy eating backed up by sound science. This first video, ‘Energy Balance & the Complexity of Obesity’, explains why creating an energy gap is the key to preventing weight gain, and how small changes in food or activity can create a gap that shifts our body towards burning body fat for energy, rather than storing excess energy as fat.

In the second video, Nikki Hart says the focus with all foods and beverages should be on moderation and portion size of foods, in combination with physical activity. She explains how snacking can help boost nutrition for some people, but if their diet is already providing enough energy and nutrients then they don’t need to add snacks to their usual pattern of eating. “The secret is in understanding when something is a treat or a snack. Snacks can be a fun and healthful part of anyone’s eating pattern, and offer a great opportunity to reduce the risk of chronic disease by providing important nutrients.

“Treats are those less healthy snack items – such as lollies, chips, and sugar-sweetened beverages – that aren’t nutrient-rich and may be high in energy, saturated fat, salt, and sugar. But they are a part of our lives and can be tasty and enjoyable.”

However, she says that classifying food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ may actually foster unhealthy eating behaviours, particularly in children.

“If your diet is already meeting your energy needs then you don’t need to add snacks to your usual pattern of eating.

“But there are many groups where snacking can be a useful way to meet their needs, for example active children and adolescents who need extra energy to meet their growth and exercise demands, older adults who have a limited intake and need to balance blood sugars, and those with a large time gap between meals who need to boost energy and address hunger.

“The trick is moderation and portion control. The bottom line is that smaller snacking is smarter snacking. Enjoy your treats but remember they are just that – a treat,” she says.

FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich says the videos are intended to offer positive and achievable solutions at a time when people are confused by often contradictory information. “A lot of the food or nutrition information can seem too complicated or based on theory rather than practice. We want to make sound and practical information available to help people make better-informed food choices.

“It’s about putting nutrition knowledge into practice, and in this video Nikki brings together research and experience, to give her best advice on how to choose snacks and to balance treats within a healthy eating pattern.

“These videos are the next step in building food literacy among consumers and are just one of the ways the food and beverage industry is helping to reduce obesity.

“We are part of the solution, and many of our member companies are working to reduce portion sizes, and reformulating products to reduce energy, saturated fat, salt, and sugar.”

The next video in the series will be launched in coming weeks. Other topics include smart shopping for healthier foods, and eating to live healthier for longer.

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