Snack Attack!

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Snacking has gotten a bad rap in some quarters, especially since stereotypical snack foods — such as chips, crackers, cookies, and nuts — tend to be highly processed or high in calories, fat, sugar, or sodium. For people with diabetes who are trying to stick to a meal plan, unplanned snacking is sometimes seen as a kind of failure. Even planned snacking may feel “extra” or even undeserved for people who have been socialized to believe that three meals a day is enough for anyone.

So what is the current state of snacking in America? A recent study released by The Hartman Group, a market research company, sought to find out. As described in an article on the study at, Americans eat an average of 2.3 snacks per day. Most snacking takes place at home; only 12% of people eat snacks at work, and 7% consume them while traveling from one place to another. The at-home nature of snacking may be explained by another result from the study: Most snacking takes place in the afternoon and evening hours.

The reasons given by study participants for their snacking varied. Twenty-eight percent said they wanted an “indulgent treat,” and 27% said it was simply an impulse (one based undoubtedly, for many people, on hunger). Sixteen percent of respondents snacked because they didn’t want to prepare a meal, and 14% reported snacking because they felt stressed or anxious. These answers may show why snacking is problematic for some people; in effect, 58% of respondents named indulgence, laziness, or anxiety as reasons for their snacking behavior. None of these reasons fit the pattern, often encouraged for people with diabetes, of preparing a healthy, filling snack when hunger strikes. While 57% of respondents in the study said that it was important for their snack food or beverage to be healthy, chips and soda were the most commonly consumed snack items.

As we noted in a Diabetes Flashpoints piece on snacking a couple of years ago, there is no direct correlation between snacking and obesity — in fact, a study of teens found that more snacking was associated with a lower body weight. But that study did not count beverages as snacks, which means that it did take into account the effect that drinking soda might have on obesity. Meanwhile, as the new survey-based study suggests, many Americans may think of soda as a “snack beverage” that they consume for taste or refreshment.

Are you a snacker? When you snack, is it an impulsive behavior, or do you plan out snacks ahead of time? Do you snack primarily for taste or because of hunger? Has your snacking increased, decreased, or stayed about the same since you learned that you have diabetes? Does your meal plan include snacks — and if not, do you wish it did? Do you find that snacking has any positive or negative effect on your blood glucose level? Leave a comment below!

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