Even though we aren’t super-sizing our meals as much anymore, Americans are stopping to consume calories more often during the day. In 1977 people ate an average of 3.8 times during the day. In 2006, we climbed to 4.8 breaks for a quick bite.
The main increase? Drinking high caloric beverages, sweetened beverages.
Over this same thirty-year period, Americans have increased their daily total caloric intake by 570 calories. Of these, 220 calories are from sugar-sweetened beverages and soft drinks.
The number of daily meals and snacks has increased from 5 to now 7, so we are definitely eating more. “In my opinion, it is not the rise in frequency of eating that causes daily calories to increase” says Dr. Caroline Cederquist, “but rather it is the type of foods that people choose to partake.” Food like sodas and cookies for a snack can really make calorie counts spike. But an apple is low calorie, and contains fiber, which makes you feel full for a longer period of time after you eat it.
Researchers also discovered that people do not sit down to 3 square meals during the day, but more of a grazing pattern has developed. Families are eating at different times, and work doesn’t always allow more than a quick fast food meal. Lots of Americans also skip breakfast as well, or just have a cup of coffee to get them going in the morning.
The lack of structured, scheduled meal times can really affect the mental tabulation of calories as well. When you have eaten often during the day, then you have more food items to remember and tabulate.
Certainly it is not a bad idea to be eating more frequently during the day, in fact at Cederquist Medical Wellness Center, we encourage it. However, we recommend very specific snacks that do not stimulate appetite, and instead promote a stable blood sugar. Most patients report little-to-no cravings at all during the day, and they report good energy levels as well.
The National Institute of Health funded this particular study, and the results from researchers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were published on June 28th 2011.