Many studies suggest that distributing energy and nutrient intake across 4-5 eating occasions/day (rather than across three standard meals) could favourably affect human health. The inclusion of 1-2 snacks in the daily pattern alleviates the potential digestive and metabolic overload caused by fewer heavier meals and might contribute to meet recommendations for food groups (e.g. fruits, dairy) and nutrients like fibre and vitamins. The snack composition should be evaluated taking into account the whole day's diet. In early and late ages, and for specific population groups, snacking may need to follow particular characteristics in order to be optimal, both in terms of composition and timing. This document, which is the result of a collaboration of experts across several fields of research, intends to provide a review of the current scientific literature on meal frequency and health, highlighting the beneficial effects of correct snack consumption across the human lifespan.
Keywords: Snacking; dietary intake; eating occasion; meal frequency; meal timing.