I’ve been traveling for a couple weeks to attend two weddings back on the East Coast. I (obviously) used this as an opportunity to continue to study, explore, observe, and understand snack offerings in every place I went.
What continues to be so fascinating to me, and showed up in the physical placement of small food items nearly everywhere I went is that snacks are obviously a part of what Americans do, but we just don’t focus on it. We allow snacks to be an afterthought, a random bag of a random corn product at the end of a random aisle. We let snacks hide away near a register or disguise themselves as a full meal by increasing portion size or pairing them with a variety of other snacks. The reality is that snacks do not have an elevated position in our eating habits. They don’t get the prime spot of breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You might say I’m just toying with words here, that the act of snacking could take place at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or you might question what defines breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the first place and argue that someone could “snack” during those “meals”. And I might agree with you, except that every day we make excuses about the food choices we make because of the word choices we use. “Oh, it’s just a snack so I’m going to grab this 260 calorie Clif bar with 20g of sugar at my desk in front of my computer.”or “Oh, it’s just a snack on the go so I’m going to pick up chips and nuts and a smoothie and a candy bar.” or “Oh, it’s time for lunch, so I need to be good and order a salad.” The food choices we make are in part linked to the time of day of consumption and the mindset we have about meal vs. snack. Since I am trying to impact people’s food choices when they want to consume something small in portion, I have no choice but to use words people understand because those words define their behaviors and choices.
The fact that snacks are an afterthought, exhibited by the offhand physical placement in stores and kiosks, does not worry me. My goal is to push people to see snacks as just as important as breakfast, lunch, and dinner (if not more important if you’re making poor choices in between meals!). The frequent chances we have throughout the day to make better snack choices present a huge opportunity to integrate more produce into our diet and keep us fuller longer!