Snacking for better or worse

By Cutter Bishop

Have you had a Twinkie lately?

Jelly maker J.M. Smucker and Hostess Brands hope your answer is yes.  Smuckers announced it agreed to buy Hostess Brands, the company that makes Twinkies, for $5.6 billion in September.

According to news agency Reuters, Hostess shares have climbed 27 since the announcement about the sale was made.  On the Hostess Brands website, there’s an announcement dated Nov. 7 saying the Smucker’s acquisition of Hostess Brands is now complete.

Within the November announcement, Mark Smucker, Smucker’s chair of the board and president and chief executive officer,  is quoted as saying, in part, “Consumers’ increasing reliance on snacking to fit lifestyle needs and convenience choices has expanded the occasions where the category can deliver, and the sweet baked goods category is one of the largest and fastest

So, how many of us eat Twinkies or other sweet baked goods as snacks?  We don’t have formal research to answer that question.  But we did conduct an informal poll of 40 South Plains College students about their snacking habits.

The survey asked students to check off what Hostess snacks they eat and how often.  An extensive lineup of Hostess snack cakes was listed for students to check off if they wanted, including: Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Hohos, CupCakes, Zingers, Snoballs, Fruit Pies, and Donettes.

The results were mixed.  Twelve students checked that they ate two or more of the snacks regularly.  Two students checked that they ate Twinkies on a regular basis.  One student checked Donettes.  One student said Fruit Pies.  One student said Ding Dongs.  Five students checked CupCakes.

Another whopping 18 students checked the category of “other”.  Out of those 18, most said they prefer salty snacks such as chips, Cheez -Its, and pickles.

Some students also wrote in that they would rather have healthier snacks such as fruit, beef jerky, or cheese.   From a health perspective, these students are probably on to something.

Photo by Esosa Iyengunmwena

According to Keila Ketchersid, associate professor of nutrition at South Plains College, Hostess snacks like CupCakes and Twinkies tend to be high in added sugars.

“Too much sugar in the diet can increase the risk of heart disease,” she says.  “These extra empty calories when consumed regularly can increase the risk of obesity and create nutrient deficiencies taking the place of other nutrient dense foods you should be consuming including fruits, veggies, and whole grains.”

Junk food in general, she says is referred to as “empty calorie food consumption”.

Ketchersid has a long list of what she considers good, healthy snacks.  The list include sGreek yogurt with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, hummus with carrots or celery sticks, apples with peanut butter, string cheese, cottage cheese with fruit, smoothie with fresh fruit and yogurt, avocado toast, and multigrain crackers with cheese.

 Snacking can be beneficial when you consume healthy snacks in moderation but 2021 research from the Nutrition Research journal suggests that unhealthy snacking patterns can cause implications on health such as oral health, blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

Harvard School of Public Health says consuming too many snacks regardless of whether they are healthy or unhealthy can lead to unwanted weight gain and reduce hunger at mealtimes where you get most of your needed nutrients.

The Harvard site also suggests you should eat what you are craving.  In other words, stop and ask yourself if what you are about to eat will satisfy your hunger or craving.

“If you choose an apple when you really want salty popcorn or creamy yogurt,” the site explains, “you may feel unsatisfied and want more.”

So, the next time you reach for a snack, will it be a Twinkie? 

Of course, there are other, healthier alternatives. 

Photo by Esosa Iyengunmwena

But will they taste as good?

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