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Two apples a day keep the doctor away

Mixed messages on healthy eating have left the public bewildered and confused over what actually constitutes a "healthy, balanced diet" and four out of 10 Britons don't know if snacking is good or bad for them.

Around 96% of people admit snacking in secret, but a new report by Kellog's says eating three meals and two snacks a day is nothing to be ashamed of; if managed correctly it can help maintain weight and boost mood and energy.

An average adult should typically consume 2,000 calories a day made up of 500 for breakfast, 500 for lunch, 500 for dinner and the remaining 500 for midmorning and afternoon snacks.

Healthcare professionals are in the perfect position to clarify the messages, dispel the myths and provide reliable healthy eating information and "snack-ucation" to ensure children and parents make informed choices over what they eat.

Angie Jefferson, consultant dietitian, said: "Fundamentally we are changing as people, the peaks of breakfast, lunch and dinner are flattening and many complex lifestyle issues are having an affect on traditional eating patterns. This is no bad thing so long as people are choosing low-fat, high-carbohydrate snacks in preference to high-fat snacks and when snacking is planned as part of total overall dietary intake. When this happens we see that adults and children who regularly eat five or more times per day made up of three main meals and two snacks, tend to be slimmer compared to those eating three or less times each day."

Snacking can mean different things to different people, from a piece of fruit to a cereal bar or to a sandwich.