Americans Snacking More Than Ever
Americans’ snack attack is approaching the point where the day becomes just one continuous meal, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The average number of eating occasions per day has jumped from 3.9 in the late 1970s to 5.6 in the 2009-10 NHANES figures, while the percentage of total calories from snacks doubled from 12% to 24%. At about 500 daily calories, snacking adds the equivalent of a pound a week to weight. The share of respondents saying they’d eaten no snacks the previous day went from 40% in the late 1970s to just 4%, with 56% now reporting consuming three or more snacks daily.
In other NHANES data, all that snacking is making it slightly more likely that Americans will skip lunch (20%) than breakfast (15%). And despite the drumbeat of evidence touting the health benefits of produce, fruit consumption (including juice) has stayed flat while average vegetable intake has actually declined, from 2.6 daily portions in the late 1970s to 1.9 in 2007-8—including French fries.