The traditional three-square-meals-a-day eating pattern has given way to lots of noshing. In fact, 50% of all eating occasions are snacks.
And it’s not just millennials and young adults who are eating between meals. Even 43% of baby boomers say they can’t get through a day without a snack. All this snacking provides about one-quarter of our daily calorie intake.
There are many reasons for the increase in snacking and the decrease in traditional meals, says Shelley Balanko, Ph.D., senior vice president of the Hartman Group Inc., a food culture consultancy.
Time constraints are eating into traditional meals. Younger adults struggle to balance work and family demands, and with more time on their hands, retired folks are often on the go. The decline in meal planning and cooking skills has shifted the balance of meals and snacks. So have the interests in better nutrition and experimenting with new flavors. About 30% of consumers snack as an opportunity to try out new flavors, including ethnic foods. And just over half of all snacking occasions are aimed at better nutrition such as an opportunity to get more fruits and vegetables, says Balanko.
Unfortunately, she adds, 22% of all snacking is aimless, such as snacking out of boredom or to cope with stress.
Make snacks work for you
Become a planner. According to research involving over 2,700 adults and published in a 2014 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, consumers eat 59% of their snacks without planning. Yet typically, planning leads to better choices. Some people find it helpful to create a list of suitable snacks and to choose from that list only.
Fill in nutritional gaps
Think about what’s missing from your meals. Are you eating enough protein, sufficient fiber, adequate dairy, ample fruits and vegetables? Examine each food group or nutrient of concern, and make an informed decision about what your body needs at snack time.
Avoid aimless snacking
With more than one-fifth of snacks serving no good purpose, it’s smart to pay attention to your habits or emotional cues that might lead you to mindless eating. Try some of these productive strategies or create your own list:
- Play with your pet
- Chat with a friend
- Listen to uplifting music
- Take a walk.
- Sit quietly with a cup of soothing tea
- Practice a hobby, such as painting or photography