Just a nibble? Study says not to worry; it won’t hurt

The holiday season presents an opportune time to nibble. Coworkers bring homemade treats to the office. Holiday meals are big, homemade and delicious, with plenty of leftovers to pick away at.

HAMILTON, Ont. — The holiday season presents an opportune time to nibble.

Coworkers bring homemade treats to the office. Holiday meals are big, homemade and delicious, with plenty of leftovers to pick away at.

Conventional wisdom suggests nibbling can wreak havoc on your waistline, but a new small study suggests we need not fret so much.

The study, published in the January issue of Eating Behaviors, found that nibbling had no negative effect on weight or body mass index, a measure of body fat.

The small study involved 58 Norwegian women, who were assessed on their weight, shape and patterns of eating. More than 90 per cent of the women reported nibbling at least once during the 28-day study, with 40 per cent reporting they nibbled at least every other day.

The study found the more nibbling a woman did, the less likely she was to avoid food or be sensitive to weight gain.

Researchers defined nibbling as eating in an unplanned and repetitious manner between meals and snacks. The authors suggested no link was found between nibbling and a higher body mass index because participants “presumably felt ’in control’ of their eating.”

If the women assessed their eating pattern as feeling out of control, it was considered binge eating.

A key to eating well is being mindful, said Vicki Edwards, a registered dietitian with the city of Hamilton.

She said some people manage to nibble often and still stay within their healthy weight range, but for others, nibbling can easily lead to weight gain.

It depends on how you approach your eating. Let’s say you plan to eat an apple as an afternoon snack, she said. If you ate the entire apple in 10 minutes it would be considered a snack. If you cut it into wedges and ate it over an hour at your desk, that’s considered nibbling. Either way, the calorie intake is the same. Your total food intake, an apple, is controlled.

“In this scenario, nibbling could be part of a healthy eating pattern.”

On the other hand, uncontrolled nibbling can easily lead to excess calories being consumed.

“It looks like the bowl of peanuts that disappears one at a time, over the course of the evening. You didn’t mean to finish the bowl, but mindlessly it happened.”

Edward’s advice is to follow your feelings of hunger to determine how much to eat and when to stop. You should also plan your eating — whether it’s meals or nibbling.

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