Crunchy chickpeas are a healthy option for snacking, or adding some crunch to a salad.

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For months, a pile of individually packaged Doritos resided in one corner of our dining room. Meticulously arranged, as if stored in a pantry, they created a delicate precipice that threatened to fall daily.

“They’re organic,” my husband explained to justify his purchase. Every day just before 11, he plodded down the stairs from our loft where he was working to carefully choose a bag from the pile (based purely on its location rather than its flavor). We would chat as he stood there with the bag, cramming its contents into his mouth in under a minute when he would return to his work station until the next snack time.

During the pandemic, we all changed our habits to some extent. Our routines were ripped out from under us as we were forced to grapple with dramatic changes, fears and the mandatory rearrangement of our lives. Many of us gravitated to food or alcohol to overcome the gravity of being told not to go to work or restaurants and not to see our friends and family. The work place may never be the same, for better or worse. When we work from home, it’s possible that we may end up working more hours, but one thing’s for sure: We snack more. It’s not just the implications of the pandemic. Many of my busy mom clients find that they snack more simply because they’re making their kids food and clean off the spoon, knife or plate as such. It’s easy to do. My husband once declared that, had he known how his chicken tender intake would have increased as a result of being a parent, he would have had kids years earlier. (So many perks to parenting!)

Mapping meals

It used to be all about three squares a day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, repeat. It wasn’t until the 1980s that snacking became a “thing” as a result of multiple marketing campaigns and we bought it hook, line and sinker. Snacks even became part of weight loss plans. Some of us get a lot of our daily calories from snacking — to the tune of 500 to 600 a day. Do we actually need all those extra calories and how many times a day should we actually be eating?

The only consensus in the health world is that there isn’t any, when it comes to advice. We’re always being told different things, which makes it all the more confusing. Over the years, we’ve been told to fast between meals and to eat three times a day. We’ve been urged to eat five small meals a day, unless we want to eat three small meals with two snacks. We’re instructed to eat within an hour of waking and stop eating two hours before we go to bed. If we followed the government’s suggested Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), we would have to spend the entire day eating just to get all of our recommended servings in. Whatever happened to eating when we’re hungry?

With so much vacillation about how and when to eat, research suggests that our bodies may be made to digest fewer, larger meals each day rather than breaking down a constant stream of food. Some professionals argue that we were designed to fast intermittently and that a steady stream of calories keeps our insulin levels perpetually high. As hunters and gatherers, we never knew when the next meal would be and we certainly couldn’t pull through a drive-thru when we got hungry. Having time between meals can benefit our metabolism. Still, other schools of thought maintain that when we snack, our metabolism stays active, like a fire. If we stop putting logs or even kindling on a fire, it eventually burns out. Some swear by the grazing method, but it may come down to our metabolism and the way our bodies are built.

“The body works in patterns,” says Rozalyn Anderson, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health. “We respond to the anticipation of being fed. One thing intermittent fasting does is it imposes a pattern, and our biological systems do well with a pattern.” Anderson argues that our body anticipates our next meal or feeding time based on past meals or snacks.

Smart snacking — friend or foe?

The U.S. is faced with $14 billion of advertising each year sponsored by food and beverage companies. More than 80 percent of these promotions are for fast food, sugary drinks, candy and other unhealthy snacks. When we snack, it’s no surprise that we take in extra calories, many of which we don’t need, but it’s our snack choices that are pivotal. When we eat emotionally, we tend to choose snacks that are higher in sugar and fat (hello, chocolate sundaes).

We don’t only snack when we’re sad or bored, however. The 2020 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council revealed that 25 percent of Americans said they snack once a day and more than a third reported snacking several times each day. People reported eating because they were hungry or thirsty (thirst is often mistaken as hunger) or because the snacks were readily available (think office treats).

Kids fall prey to snacks as well, but when they’re eating those calorie-rich, nutrient-poor products that are marketed to them and placed at their eye level in the grocery stores, they may not be driven to eat for hunger either. Nearly a third of our kids are overweight or even obese. Those who are not worry about getting so.

There’s no one right diet for everyone. Snacking isn’t a true evil if we snack for the right reasons. If we’re well hydrated and our stomach is rumbling, there’s no reason to try to push an empty stomach to the next meal without some relief. We all fall prey to the bread basket or bowl of tortilla chips when we sit down to dinner famished. Instead, snack for the right reasons on the right stuff.

If snacking is part of your day and you want to keep it that way, try to avoid processed snacks like those that are packaged. Healthy snacks that are small in size should be adequate to satisfy us between meals. Raw almonds (about 7 to 10) are a good option, as are hard-boiled eggs (just one should do), string cheese, fruit or veggies with hummus. Snack servings can easily get out of control. I find that the prepackaged snack sizes of nuts are really two servings and I have seen the same thing with the snack-size hummus cups. If we find ourselves eating out of boredom or as a habit between tasks, try to substitute a glass of water or unflavored sparkly beverage instead.

Try this high-protein crunchy treat to satisfy your snack cravings!

Crunchy chickpeas

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Perfect for a snack (when you’re hungry) or add to a salad for texture!

Method (adjust measurements according to taste)

2 (15 oz) cans chick peas, rinsed (peel off any extra skins)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1½ teaspoons dried parsley

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon salt

Black pepper (to taste)


Preheat oven to 425°F.

Drain and rinse chickpeas.

Dry with towel and remove excess skins.

Layer onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Dress with olive oil, parsley, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper and toss, coating evenly.

Spread out on baking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes or until crispy.

Katharine A. Jameson, a certified nutrition counselor who grew up in Williamsville and Townshend, writes about food and health for Vermont News & Media. For more tricks, tips and hacks, find her on Instagram: @foodforthoughtwithkat


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