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Nutrition Experts Warn Against High-Calorie Snacking

CHICAGO (CBS) - When you look at a sandwich, what do you see? Some people see a meal. Others see a mid-day snack.

With between-meal munching on the rise, and more high-fat, high-calorie fare on the menu, it's becoming harder for noshers to know where to draw the line. And, as CBS 2's Mary Kay Kleist reports, that has nutrition experts concerned.

Dominic Vito's days are jam-packed.

"I work seven days a week, and I'm going to school full time as well," he said.

In between work and class, he's no stranger to snack attacks.

"I snack just about every day, whether it's in place of a meal or in between meals," he said.

Vito isn't the only one eating between meals. Registered Dietitian Elisa Zied says daily snacking is on the rise, as busy Americans grow short on time.

"In the '70s, about 71 percent of adults snacked every day," said Zied. "But now, it's about 97 percent. And among children, about 98 percent."

The problem is that the line between a snack and a meal is now becoming increasingly blurry.

"Even if it's a small sandwich, they're considering that a snack," said Zied. "And they're eating 24/7. And that's really because all this enticing, high-fat, high-calorie fare is increasingly available."

And often at low prices. At fast foods restaurants across the country, dollar menu deals and steals are among the most popular snack items. Snack wraps can contain 400 calories and 15 grams of fat.

"If something has 300 or 400 calories, that's getting into meal territory," Zied said.

Other popular fast food fare includes pies, fries and popcorn shrimp.

Dominic Vito snacks on wraps three to four times a week, even though he knows they can be high in calories.

"I can eat it on the go. The fat and calorie content really doesn't concern me," he said.

It's a good idea to do some research and find out the number of calories in foods you're snacking on. You can check the menu boards in restaurants for calorie counts, and you can also check the websites.

Zied says there is no true definition for "snack", but she considers it to be something that contains 100 to 200 calories and comes from the basic food groups.

"Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat sources of dairy foods and lean meats," said Zied.

If you like to piece together "snack size" foods for a meal, Zied says you still need to pay attention to portion size. Pick two or three items that add up to no more than 500 or 600 calories.

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