01/12/2011 07:20 GMT

Dieters Who Eat Morning Snacks Lose Less Weight Than Afternoon Grazers, Research Suggests

Dieters who indulge in a mid-morning snack will lose less weight than those who graze in the afternoon, new research suggests.

The study by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Public Health Sciences Division in Seattle, found that women who never snack between breakfast and lunch, lost 11% of their body weight in one year, compared to a 7% weight-loss for morning snackers.

"We think this finding may not relate necessarily to the time of day that one snacks, but rather to the short interval between breakfast and lunch," says Anne McTiernan from the study. "Mid-morning snacking therefore might be a reflection of recreational or mindless eating habits rather than eating to satisfy true hunger."

Researchers added that although mid-morning snacking can potentially sabotage a diet, it's important to snack throughout the day, but only if it's in response to true hunger.

"Individuals should determine if they experience long intervals - such as more than five hours - between meals. Adding a snack might help people deal better with hunger and ultimately help them to make more sound choices at their next meal," adds McTiernan.

In addition, the study found that women who ate more than two snacks a day, had a higher fibre intake than those who rarely snacked. What's more, afternoon eaters made healthier food choices and were more likely to eat fruit and vegetables and therefore more lose weight.

"Our study suggests that snacking may actually help with weight loss if not done too close to another meal, particularly if the snacks are healthy foods that can help you feel full without adding too many calories."

The researchers defined snacks as any type of food and drink consumed between meals and recommended that ideal, diet-friendly snacks should include nuts, non-starchy vegetables, fruit and no-calorie drinks like water and tea.

If you're a morning snacker, stick to healthy protein-rich snacks like these:

Meat-Free Atkins Treats