New research reveals more than a fifth of people always miss breakfast and more than half sometimes skip lunch. Failure to follow a regular eating pattern may be impacting on nutrition levels with more than a third of people voicing concerns that their diet is not meeting their nutritional needs.
The survey of 3,000 adults conducted for PAGB, the UK trade association for over the counter medicines and food supplements, has revealed irregular eating patterns which can cause uneven blood sugar levels and low points. This will often lead to increased feelings of hunger throughout the rest of the day, triggering snacking to counteract the troughs in energy.
Helen Bond, State Registered Dietitian and member of the British Dietetic Association (BDA), comments: “Skipping meals makes it more difficult to ensure your body is getting an adequate level of nutrients. People who don’t eat breakfast may find they overcompensate mid morning when hunger pangs take hold and nutritionally poor, quick fix snack choices may be made that are high in fat and sugar but low in vitamins and minerals. Water soluble vitamins like B and C are not stored in the body so get depleted very quickly –and so people who are not managing to eat a balanced diet or fall into irregular patterns of eating should try to eat healthier or consider taking a food supplement to help keep their vitamin levels at a normal level.”
The results show that snacks do appear to be filling the hunger gap for those that miss out on meals with 83 per cent of respondents stating that they regularly nibble inbetween meals. Snack foods were most likely to be consumed mid morning or mid afternoon with only 18 per cent feeling the urge to snack in the evening.
“Often the urge to snack will catch you unawares which means you are more likely to grab the first thing available,” remarks Helen. “Although there are plenty of healthy and nutritious snacks out there, when blood sugar levels drop, you are more likely to reach for high fat, high sugar and high salt products which will give us a quick fix. Care should be taken to ensure people maintain healthy and nutritious snack choices. Foods rich in B vitamins (such as cereals, dairy products, eggs, green leafy vegetables, meat and fish) will help release energy slowly leaving you better prepared to resist unhealthy snacks. Anyone who feels like they may be missing out on vital nutrients in their diet and at risk of an energy slump should consider supporting their diet with a food supplement rich in B vitamins.
“Furthermore, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2011 recently showed that intakes of saturated fat and sugars remain above recommended levels so it is important we all consider what foods make up our core diet."
Organised events such as the cinema or a football match were considered a snackers’ paradise where two thirds of people say they normally purchase something to eat or drink. Respondents were most likely to buy food and snacks pre-prepared at the venue and the most popular choices were processed foods like burgers, hot dogs and bagged sweets and crisps. “Consumers should ensure they are following a balanced diet that is not dominated by these food types,” remarks Shona Wilkinson, independent nutritionist. “Relying on this type of processed, convenience food on a regular basis reduces the likelihood of the body getting the required nutritional support from diet alone. Taking a regular good quality food supplement will offer a proven means to boost intakes of essential nutrients to support health.”
Promisingly, fresh fruit topped the list of most popular snacks with seeds and dried fruit also making an appearance in the top 5. However, unsurprisingly biscuits, crisps and chocolate remain popular choices. “It is great to see fresh fruit featuring so dominantly as a snack of choice,” concludes Helen. “Fresh fruit offers lots of vitamins, minerals and fibre to help meet the 'five a day' target for fruit and veg and support optimal health and wellbeing. Nevertheless, consumers should be wary not to fall back on less nutritious snacking options like biscuits and crisps which are high in calories and saturated fats.”