Why do we rely on snacks so much?

What happened to the traditional 3 meals a day our parents grew up with?

Why do we rely on snacks? - A Free From Life
Wall of snacks/photo via Benson Kua at Flickr

“A finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat. A finger of fudge is just enough until it’s time to eat…”

These are the first two lines from an advert that ran for a decade in the UK from 1979. I can still hear the tune in my head; such was the power of the advert.

“It’s full of Cadbury goodness, but very small and neat.”

The message was clear: ‘give your child a chocolate bar, just a small one though, you don’t want to fill them up too much and don’t worry, it’s good for them.’

Not like that in our day

What our parents were being introduced to was the idea of giving snacks in between meals and it marked the beginning of the massive industry that is the snack food market. The world our parents grew up in was very different. Snacking was frowned upon. You ate three meals a day and that was it. Eating anywhere except in the home and most probably at the kitchen table was not the done thing. At all.

Snacking is now the norm with kids averaging at 3-4 snacks per day. In the unlikely event that you snacked in the 1970s, you might have had a hot drink or an apple. Today, the choice of snacks is endless and has led to the decline of the three meal a day structure, with many opting to skip meals altogether in favour of food on the go. Is it any wonder we are getting fatter?

I gave up sugar for Lent this year and if there’s one thing I learned it’s that snacking is much less appealing when you don’t have anything sweet to eat. I won’t argue that there are plenty of savoury snacks to choose from, but you would be surprised how many of them contain sugar.

Do we need snacks?

If we eat three solid meals a day, we can quite easily survive without snacking. We don’t choose to do that though and as a consequence we get hungry and when we get hungry we grab the first thing we see. It fills us up for a short time only. Our blood sugar levels yo-yo up and down all day and we end up craving the sweet things. Haven’t you ever thought to yourself ‘I could just eat a little sweet something,’ even though you’ve just eaten?

It’s a habit more than a need and I found out when I gave up sugar and lost that craving, that snacking just didn’t have the same appeal. Without any tempting sweet treats to choose from, I simply wasn’t bothered.

It made me realise that before those marketers corrupted our parents into thinking their little darlings should have a chocolate bar between meals every day, we were so much healthier. I bet our grandparents didn’t come out of school every day whinging ‘have you got me a snack.’ It wouldn’t have even occurred to them.

The surprising thing about my sugar fast (though it’s no surprise really) was the weight loss. After six weeks I was 2kg lighter (that’s almost 4.5 pounds). Even though I didn’t do it for that reason, it was a pleasant bonus.

What did I learn?

I learned that you can survive the day on three substantial meals, as long as you make them count. Eating on the hoof, snacking and not eating properly in general means that we end up hungry and when we’re hungry, we snack.

It’s not easy when the snack market is booming and we’re surrounded by ever increasing numbers of products that claim to be healthy. Are they though? You find sugar in most of them in some form or other and that certainly isn’t healthy; a quick energy fix maybe, but that’s all.

About Nicola Young

Freelance writer and copywriter

2 thoughts on “Why do we rely on snacks so much?

  1. So true Nicola! The snack situation has gone crazy and three meals a day arguably much better. I’m so glad to hear you had a good sugar fast experience. I’m not going back to it now and the kids are doing much better at having less too!

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