Confirming the increasing role of snacks in the US diet, research presented at the recent Institute of Food Technologists Expo reported that snacks now account for a quarter of the average Americans calorie intake-representing, in effect, a fourth daily meal. Richard Mattes, professor at Purdue University, said, Between 1977 and 2006, snacking in the American diet has grown to constitute a full eating event, or a fourth meal, averaging about 580 calories each day. Half those calories, he added, come from beverages consumed between meals. The amount of between-meal eating-while doing something else, such as watching TV-doubled from 2006 to 2008, Mattes said, from 15 minutes daily to almost a half-hour. Beverage consumption outside of mealtimes jumped from 45 minutes to 85 minutes a day.