Most Danes eat snacks every day that contribute significantly to their daily diet and energy. However, our snacks often contain too much sugar. The National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark has now prepared a proposal for dietary criteria for healthier snacks to be used by professionals. The criteria are described as guidelines in a new report.
Snacks are an important element in the diet of most Danes, contributing significantly to our daily energy levels. A snack is defined as any food or beverage consumed in between main meals.
The National Food Institute has reviewed the scientific literature on main meals and has made a report with proposals for dietary criteria for snacks. The criteria are guidelines for the healthy part of the population and can be used to develop information on nutrition and healthier snacks so that they comply with the 8 dietary recommendations.
The national dietary habit surveys show that up to 30% of our daily energy come from snacks, and compared to our main meals, most snacks often contribute with sugar. The National Food Institute suggests that a small snack for healthy people constitutes approx. 5% of the daily energy requirement and a large snack constitutes 15%.
Energy percentages indicate the percentage of total food energy coming from the individual nutrients. The National Food Institute recommends that snacks contain a maximum of 10 energy percent from added sugar, a maximum of 30 energy percent from fat and that saturated fat constitutes a maximum of 10 energy percent. It is recommended that snacks always contain fruit and/or coarse vegetables.
Snacks should match the overall diet
The size and thus the energy content of snacks must always be viewed in relation to the overall diet. Snacks should not satisfy you as a main meal, but make you less hungry. Snacks could partly replace a main meal, or an unhealthy snack could be replaced by a healthier snack. If, for example, you eat a large snack in the afternoon, you do not have eat such a large evening meal.
Not everybody needs snacks
The Nordic Nutrition Recommendations recommend a regular meal pattern, and not everybody needs to eat snacks. If Danes just expand their diet with one or more meals without reducing their main meal intake, it could result in overeating and consequently overweight. Conversely, a healthy snack may be necessary if you are hungry and there is a long time before the next main meal.
The report points out that we generally lack sufficient knowledge about how the Danish population perceives and uses snacks.
Read the entire report (in Danish): Grundlag for ernæringsmæssige kriterier for mellemmåltider (basis for dietary criteria for snacks) (PDF)
Lene Møller Christensen, Academic officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +45 35 88 75 11
Sisse Fagt, Senior adviser, email@example.com, tel. +45 35 88 74 22