A study suggests that a love of tasty snacks is undermining Brits’ attempts to eat healthily.
Scientists who study grazing habits said their findings showed Britain was “a nation of snackers”, with 95 per cent of us nibbling between meals.
However, there is a mismatch between people’s meals and snacks.
A study of 854 people carried out by King’s College London and ZOE found that one in four Brits eat healthily but give in to temptation during the day and gorge on biscuits, cakes and tarts, ruining the situationfrom their nutritious lunches and dinners.
The team said processed treats high in sugar and fat were linked to weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
They found that people consumed about 24 percent of their daily calories through snacks – about 500 calories per day.
According to the results, Brits ate an average of 2.3 snacks a day and three in ten indulged in more than two.
The most popular snacks ranged from fruit and nuts to muesli, granola bars, cheese, butter and cakes and tarts.
But snacking isn’t always harmful, researchers say.
People who ate nutritious snacks were actually healthier than those who didn’t eat them.
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Data from the Zoe Predict study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, showed that people who picked nuts and fresh fruit had a healthier weight and were less hungry.
Meanwhile, those who ate highly processed and sugary treats had a higher BMI and higher “visceral fat mass” – hidden fat stored in the stomach and around organs.
Researchers linked both to a higher risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Dr. Sarah Berry, from King’s College London and senior scientist at Zoe, said: “Given that almost a quarter of our calories come from snacks, swapping biscuits, crisps and cakes for healthy snacks such as fruit and nuts is a simple way to keep ourselves healthy improve your health.”
Meanwhile, lead scientist Dr. Kate Bermingham added: “Eating a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, proteins and legumes is the best way to improve your health.”
Analyzes show that the timing of our treats also plays a role, as snacking after 9 p.m. is linked to higher blood sugar and fat levels.
Grazers who feed late at night are also more likely to consume unhealthy foods because fatigue makes it harder to resist temptation.
Around a quarter of Brits are considered obese and 38 percent are overweight, which experts link to poor diet and lack of exercise.
Both increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.