SNAC International recently testified on the positive role snacking can play as part of a healthy dietary pattern at the final public meeting of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Guided by its Nutrition Working Group, SNAC also submitted detailed written comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). USDA and HHS will review SNAC’s oral and written comments as they develop the next DGAs, which are expected to be released by the end of the year.
“The American diet has shifted from a focus on larger meals to that of smaller eating occasions,” testified Jessica Hixson, director of government affairs, SNAC International. “Each snack is a nutrient opportunity and can be an important part of a healthy diet.”
Hixson’s oral testimony and SNAC International’s written comments highlighted key aspects for the USDA and HHS to consider on the importance of snacking as part of a healthy, balanced diet:
- Snacks increasingly are considered “mini meals” that can provide essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients between larger eating occasions.
- For children, snacks can be an important vehicle to both facilitate nutrient intake and promote intake from under consumed food groups.
- For adults, eating patterns that include snacks, despite being varied in food type, play a role in weight reduction and maintenance.
- For older adults, especially those in assisted living or nursing home situations, high-protein snacks spaced throughout the day are highly recommended.
Hixson also emphasized that the lack of a consistent definition of “snacks” poses a hurdle in translating research into dietary guidance, and the DGAC's use of the term does not fully capture combinations of foods that are often considered snacks. Standardization of terms is critical before recommendations around frequency of eating can be translated into future dietary guidance.
SNAC members continue to innovate across the snack category to provide nutrient-dense, better-for-you and healthy options in a variety of portion sizes. SNAC International encourages USDA and HHS to recognize the benefits of snacking, protect the role of snack consumption, and refrain from negatively portraying snacks within the 2020-2025 DGA.