I read in the latest issue of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter that snacks now account for a quarter of the average American's calorie intake. Do you know what this means? That essentially, snacks add up to a fourth meal.

How can it be? I, for one, believe in snacking. I'm rarely without food, since I fear getting so hungry that I feel weak, cranky and ravenous. So I snack a lot. And I think that snacking holds a place in helping to keep your energy up between meals.

But snacking has increased among Americans and a harmless (?) munch is reported to average about 580 calories each day, half of those calories coming from beverages that are consumed between meals. Snack time also is reported to have increased from 15 minutes a day to almost half an hour. I can think of times that snacking can easily get away from you and morph into an event: mindlessly eating in front of the TV; eating in the car; nibbling while preparing dinner; eating out of boredom.

Does this mean you have to cut out your snack time? I don't think so. But I do think it's good to know that all snacks are not created equal. It's good to heed the usual, sensible advice you've probably heard many times before:

  • Measure and plate your food—don't eat straight from the bag.
  • Beware of the new fad, frozen yogurt (especially the fill-your-own-cup kind) It's easy to overdo it with something that sounds so healthy. And those toppings like cookie crumbs and granola should be used in extreme moderation.
  • Savor each mouthful. Take your time and chew your food thoroughly. If you eat too fast, soon enough you've forgotten that the food ever touched your lips.

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