Snack lovers sought for survey on nutrition perceptions

Jul 18 2016

It’s not the type of ‘snack attack’ that has dietetics researchers at the University of Newcastle (UON) concerned … it’s portion sizes and consumer perceptions about nutrition values.

An online research survey has been created to gather opinions from snack lovers about differing foods, particularly how nutritious they appear to be. Responses will be compared to those of professional dieticians to gauge discrepancies and potentially improve packaging information.

The survey can be accessed at www.tinyurl.com/uonsnackstudy

“In our previous snack studies we’ve observed that people don’t really consider portion size,” chief investigator Dr Tamara Bucher, from the UoN Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, said.

“So with a small piece of chocolate and a larger quantity people didn’t consider the nutritional difference – we tend to focus on what we eat, not on how much.

“It’s confusing, perhaps, because food labels show standardised amounts such as ‘100 grams’ or ‘per serve’, which is not actually what people eat. The amount is very important, of course, especially when you’re trying to manage weight or you’re buying snacks for children.”

The survey shows photographs of 21 different junk foods and healthier snack choices in small and large sizes, along with a standard nutrition facts panel, then asks consumers to rate the nutritional score from 0-100.

“There’s no right or wrong answer because snacking is not necessarily a bad thing – it all depends on what you snack on and how much,” Dr Bucher added. “With a portion of nuts, for example, 30 grams is a good amount but 100 grams might be too much.

“There are no official recommendations, so ideally we would like to see a front-of-pack label showing whether the snack is good for you, or not, in the actual amount that it comes.

“At the moment, larger portions are appealing for snack manufacturers from a marketing sense because there’s very little additional cost in packaging and handling and consumers think they’re getting value for money.”

The suvey is open for people aged 18 years or older who have no formal nutrition qualifications. Participants can go into the draw to win one of two $100 MYER vouchers.

* The research team comprises Dr Bucher, Dr Megan Rollo, Dr Christina Hartmann, Ms Sonja Mötteli and Professor Clare Collins. Dr Bucher researches in conjunction with HMRI’s Cardiovascular Research Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the Community.