Food that isn’t part of a regular meal, usually a small amount.
In fact, dictionary definitions specify a small amount. However, eating more than a quart of ice cream can be a snack without being small. (For some of the most popular snack foods, see last week’s blog.)
Any time, day or night. Or habitually, the same time every day and/or every night
Wherever you watch TV
At sports events
On fishing trips
In front of the refrigerator
In class (not recommended)
Hospital waiting room
Virtually any kind of party
Duh! Who needs a reason? But let me list a few.
Too hungry to wait for a meal
Too busy to stop for a meal
Too tired to cook a meal
Need to gain weight
Need to lose weight
To maintain blood sugar levels
To explore when traveling
It’s a favorite food, so it’s the pleasure principle
It’s right there
When you see it, you eat it, the convenience factor
To be polite when someone offers food
In many cultures, it is considered rude to refuse an offer of food, particularly from a host
Well established that people snack more with alcohol
You always eat leftovers
The waste-not principle
You need an energy boost
You feel like celebrating
You’re feeling down or depressed
You want to reward yourself
It’s a habit
You always have a bite to eat at a particular time
Other people are snacking
Psychology has documented that people who’ve stopped snacking when alone in a room start eating again when someone else comes in and starts eating
Bottom line: Snacking is ubiquitous. What can we learn about ourselves and/or our characters based on what, when, where, and why we snack?
February is National Snack Food Month. It was started in 1989 to “to increase consumption and build awareness of snacks during a month when snack food consumption was traditionally low” according to the Fooducate wellness community. February 15th is a particularly good day to stock up on chocolate!
According to Oxford Languages, a snack is a small amount of food eaten between meals. Snacks often differ from main meals in what they contain, portion size, consumption time, and place as well as why they`re eaten So, theoretically, it can be anything. But certain foods are more likely to be chosen than others. My personal observations—totally not scientific—is that people tend to be primarily salty snackers OR sweet snackers.
Salty or Sweet?
You can find favorite junk food by state, but these are the nation’s most popular snacks, as measured by consumer opinion.
Jif. (peanut butter)
And sometimes, one is not enough: according to a OnePoll survey of 2000 snackers, 60% said snacks taste better when they’re paired together.
Cookies and cream 39 percent
Chocolate and nuts 37 percent
Popcorn and chocolate 35 percent
Chocolate and marshmallow 34 percent
Chocolate and fruit 33 percent
Peanut butter and jelly 32 percent
Peanut butter and apples 30 percent
Cheese and crackers 27 percent
Chips and salsa 26 percent
Chocolate and peanut butter 26 percent
Modern Snack Trends
According to an article by Bridget Goldschmidt (progressivegrocer.com), Americans are snacking between meals more than ever, and eating snack foods with meals grew by 5% over the ten-year period from 2010 to 2020. She cited several conclusions.
NPD (a national research group) also found that snacking follows a daily pattern in most U.S. households: better-for-you snacks such as fruit or yogurt are eaten in the morning; snacks like potato chips or tortilla chips are likely eaten at lunch; and sweeter snacks like chocolate candy and cookies in the evening.
What drives snacking?
Satiety (how full the eater is)
How easy a food is to eat
Time of day (health-driven motivation gives way to satiety as the day goes on)
The COVID-19 pandemic ramped up snacking. (How surprising is that? Not.) The NPD study cited in the article found that having enough snack foods available during the pandemic is important to 37% of consumers. These consumers’ homes are well stocked with salty snacks and frozen sweets more than other items.
In many cases, the more snack food packages in the home, the more often the item is eaten, which tends to be particularly true of certain kinds of snack foods, such as salty snacks.
According to the survey of 2,000 American snackers mentioned above:
71 percent of all those surveyed consider themselves “snackers”
66 percent said snacking brings them great joy
67 percent said snacking is one of their favorite forms of stress relief
(No wonder snacking is up during the pandemic!)
Snacks? What Snacks?
48 percent of surveyed Americans have stashed their favorite treats in hidden spots around the house (often with no plans to share!).
46 percent of those who had hidden snacks said they simply “don’t want to share”
53 percent said the people they live with would “eat them all” if they knew where to look
Of respondents who have ever hidden snacks, 69 percent said they’re currently doing so!
72 percent said their snack stash has been discovered by someone else
The average person has moved a snack stash four times to try to keep it a secret.
71 percent of the time partners and kids were the finders of respondents’ “snackpiles”
Only 6 percent of respondents have never been caught
A few creative snack hiding places:
Behind the washing machine
Inside oatmeal containers
Behind books on a bookshelf
In the freezer, behind the broccoli
Under yarn piles in a knitting basket
On a top shelf, out of sight
Among cleaning supplies
At the bottom of the diaper bag
Taped to the underside of the fish tank lid
Behind the butter churn
Suspended from the ceiling, above the ceiling fan
In the wall, behind the vents or outlet covers
And the average respondent believes they could survive almost FIVE full months on their stockpile of snacks alone.
Really? I’d be pressed to live 5 months on my pantry, 2 refrigerators, and a freezer! Surely that was 5 full months of snacks.
BOTTOM LINE: In the U.S., you now know the what of snacking, and a bit of the when.
STAY TUNED: Next week I’ll delve into where and why!