NEW YORK — Snacks used to be primarily something given to children as a reward, but today, they're a major part of Americans' eating habits, according to a new report.
Bellevue, Wash.-based market research firm The Hartman Group surveyed members of HartmanSalt.com, a food information website and used data from its Eating Occasions Database to find that Americans, on average, eat 2.3 snacks per day, most frequently in the afternoon, evening and late at night.
Most snacking occurs at home, while only 12% say they eat snacks at work, and 7% eat them while traveling from place to place. For 27% of Americans, snacking is an impulse, while 28% eat snacks because they want an indulgent treat. Fourteen percent eat snacks when they feel stressed or anxious.
While 57% of respondents said it was important for foods and beverages consumed while snacking to be healthy, the foods and beverages mentioned most often were chips and soda.
But while frequent snacking is often blamed for such health issues as obesity, blaming it alone oversimplifies the issue, Kansas State University nutrition professor Mark Haub told Drug Store News. Haub, who made headlines in 2010 by losing 27 lbs. in 10 weeks with what he called a "convenience store diet" — consisting of snack foods like Twinkies, chips and cookies consumed every three hours instead of consuming meals — said that what often matters most is individual needs, and that it's people's relationship to snacking that helps or hurts.
"In and of itself, I don't see snacking per se as being detrimental," Haub said. "I see eating more frequently as being a problem if portion sizes aren't adjusted to meet needs."
Snacking can become a problem if people are eating three meals plus consuming large numbers of calories as a snack on top of them, but for others, eating four to six snacks a day instead of three meals can also be healthy. "We have this broad recommendation for everybody when not everybody can fall into that."
Source: The Hartman Group