WIN-ning Wednesday: Snacks Away! Hey Captain, have a Horchata over a Coolata!!

Really, Dunkin' Donuts?! Captain America drinks Colatas? Has anyone seen a picture of Captain America?

As a second instalment related to last week’s WIN-ning Wednesday topic, I thought I’d write about snacking.  I was inspired by an article I read last week, “Snacking, not portion size, largely driving US overeating,” which is about how snacking can influence weight gain.

It’s been widely acknowledged that rates of obesity in North America are often related to sedentary lifestyle, nutritional choices and increased meal portion sizes.  However, there is a new piece of the picture that is being uncovered in the media, which involves snacking.

The article stated:

In the mid-2000s, government surveys show, the average American adult ate about 2,375 calories per day, nearly one-third more than he (or she) did in the late 1970s. What accounts for all those added calories?  According to a new study, the biggest single contributor to the sharp rise in calorie intake has been the number of snacks and meals people eat per day. 

I completely get this!  Often, I am asked by patients how to curb the urge for snacking on their favourite sweets or chips, late night snacking, snacking if they are bored, snacking because they always feel hungry, emotional snacking, etc, etc…

It seems that snacking has become a complex subject.  The source of a snack craving can stem from many places, and can be different for everyone.  A few possible metabolic reasons for the urge to snack include:

– Meals through the day aren’t balanced or nutritionally dense enough

– Dehydration, not enough water

– Hormonal imbalances

– Poor blood sugar control

– Not enough exercise

– Stress

But what about the PSYCHOLOGICAL causes of snacking?  Here’s how Snacking is tied to last week’s post….

Snacking has become prevalent in North America… and why not?  We are surrounded by sensory triggers that appeal to our taste buds.  There is a whole field of research dedicated to how branding and advertising is subconsciously affecting our choices, especially when it comes to food.

It’s different for everyone, but just think of what happens when someone crosses the path of:

– Golden Arches of McDonalds

– Starbucks or Tim Horton’s

– A Wendy’s, Harvey’s, or Pizza Pizza

– Candy aisle at Walmart, Zellers or Shopper’s Drug Mart

– Mrs. Fields or Dairy Queen at the mall

– Swedish Meatballs at Ikea

– The smell of Cinnabon baked goods wafting through the air at the subway station, and maybe, if I have some loose change, I could have just enough for my fare and one of those fluffy, icing topped high, cinnamon… !!???  (ok… that one’s mine from my student days)  LOL!  😉

Everywhere we go, we can get food.  And to some extent we can be drawn to certain brands.  It’s part of their design and ours… brands invoke a certain feeling, flavour, thought, etc.  Good business for the food industry, not so good for our health.

Furthermore, companies behind the brand work to intertwine the consumer’s lifestyle and their food.  Check out these great blog entries from one of Canada’s leading voices in nutrition, Dr. Yonni Freedhoff, which illustrates this point:

“Burger King has a “Reading Club” for 6 year olds”


“Captain America Runs on Dunkin?”  


These are just a few ways advertising can affect our food choices.  It wasn’t the case a few decades ago.  A researcher from the Snacking article mentioned earlier also noted this:

Lisa Young, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and the author of The Portion Teller, agrees that the ubiquity of snack foods has helped drive overeating.

“You never used to see food staring you in the face when you went to…a drugstore,” says Young, who was not involved in the new research. “It’s in your face and it’s cheap. You go get a magazine, you can get a candy bar.”


Interesting case in point… I was on vacation in Italy 3 years ago and, out of interest, I took a stroll into a few pharmacies while there to see which homeopathic remedies they sold and guess what… not a single item of food for sale there.  Just selling what their sign said.


The inciting qualities of food advertising, along with easy accessibility, has helped encourage non-nutritional snacking to more become common in North America.  Certainly food for thought.


Does this mean snacking is bad for us and we are defenceless in this big bad world of subliminal messages, food advertising and accessibility?

Not necessarily.

Healthy and restorative snacking, when the choices involve highly nutritious foods (like vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds) can add extra healthy fuel to your body when needed, like after a workout, during a busy day, to help keep blood sugar level or for active kids.

However, the message is clear.  When it comes to snacking we need to be present and conscious so we can make healthy choices.  This consciousness is more necessary now than ever before.




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