Is there anyone out there who does not like snacking? Probably not, which explains why snacking has made it to the top food trends for over three consecutive years. Snacking is starting to redefine our meal times, mostly in response to changes in our lifestyle, but also because we love snacks.
Why is snacking becoming such a prominent meal occasion? The answer lies in our fast-paced and sometimes unpredictable lifestyles, where meal times are seldom scheduled and many people are away from home for most of their daytime hours. Snacking also provides the option for quick and convenient meals that require no planning, cooking and cleaning, thus freeing up hours for other activities.
SNACKING STATS AND FACTS
Food trends are reviewed annually by New Nutrition Business, a key opinion leader in the healthy food industry. ‘Snackification’ has been identified as a growing food trend, where snacks are replacing traditional meals and eating occasions: ‘Snacks, meals-for-one, small meals, snacks in place of meals, meals on the go: whatever you want to call it, snackification has taken centre-stage in consumers’ preferences.’1 Snackification is on the increase, redefining our traditional mealtimes, with breakfast and lunch occasions most affected.
This explains the staggering number of 90% of consumers reporting that they snack multiple times per day. In fact, snacking has grown to 50% of all meal occasions and, often, more than half our total daily energy intake is derived from snacks.
SNACKIFICATION AND HEALTH
Is snackification a predictor of more health problems? Probably not if one considers the way we are embracing healthy eating, as well as the creative and healthy snack solutions that are available.
Research shows that 61% of consumers are actively looking for healthier snack options.2 Access to health information and nutrition guidelines make it easier for us to improve our eating habits.
Another leading food trend is ‘healthy indulgence’, driven by our desire for tasty health foods. Culinary creativity from health-conscious celebrity chefs has shifted our enjoyment of health foods and snacks into an area of flavour explosion, colour, texture and true enjoyment.
ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGES ENCOURAGE HEALTHY SNACKING
Our demand for healthy snack options has inspired the creation of new healthy snack options and snacking opportunities.
Fast food outlets are presenting new healthy convenience meals and displaying nutritional values to encourage informed choices. Baking and confectionary is supporting healthy choices with the availability of gluten-free and reduced-sugar products. Food companies deliver healthy meal packages to your door, customised to your nutritional requirements and preferences.
Supermarkets are also encouraging healthy snacking. A leading retailer took a bold step in reducing unhealthy sweet and snack offerings in their snake isles and at till points. Many supermarkets boast new health sections and offer wholesome ‘snack pots’ for small, convenient on-the-run meal options. Most supermarket deli sections offer fresh salads and wholesome meal options that are prepared daily. Convenience stores have started to sell single fresh fruit potions, freshly made salads and healthier sandwich options. Even pharmacies stock healthy snacks.
TOP TIPS FOR HEALTHY SNACKIFICATION
Most of us spend most of our days away from home, relying on convenience foods or snacks. Realising this, we are able to plan our snacking and convenience food choices a lot better. In fact, snacking can help us to break up our nutritional needs into functional nutrition-building blocks as listed below:
Proteins are required for muscle recovery after sport, plus they support better appetite control in the absence of regular meals:
- Boiled eggs
- Tinned lentils and beans
- Biltong sticks
- Tinned fish: small tins with peel lids
- Individual cheese portions
- Small yoghurt tubs
- Milk: 250 ml bottles from convenience stores
- Cottage cheese.
- Healthy fats are easier to get in a snack routine:
- Nuts and seeds
- Unsweetened nut butters
- Coconut pieces.
- Healthy carbohydrate snacks contain more fibre and are baked or popped, rather than fried:
- Rice cakes
- Wholegrain crackers
- Fresh fruit such as bananas, apples, easy-peel citrus fruits and berries.
- Fresh fruit and vegetables provide the vitamins, minerals and fibre we need daily:
- Cocktail tomatoes
- Cucumber slices
- Baby carrots
- Celery sticks
- Broccoli florets
- Zucchini slices.
How do I plan my snack intake around my schedule and still meet the criteria for a balanced diet?
A visit to a dietitian can help with personalised meal planning. There are also apps and online services available that allow for health or nutrition coaches to provide daily support and diet tips. Technology is helping us to count our kilojoules and work out our meal plans according to our needs. However, for the most accurate and balanced personalised meal plan, it is best to consult a nutrition expert such as a registered dietitian.
LET’S GET PRACTICAL Those that spend most of their daytime hours away from home can benefit in investing in a few items to pack your snack effectively, especially in the absence of a cafeteria or a formal dining place where you can sit and eat.
Snack meal toolkit
- Lunch pack cooler bag: Various shapes and sizes lunch boxes: small for snack portions of nuts and berries; medium for protein ingredients; larger containers for whole fruit and vegetable portions.
- Small cutting board: ideal to chop/slice salad and fruits
- Utensils: small knife, teaspoon and a fork
- A placemat if you sit and eat at your desk
- A cloth to clean up and a disposable bag for egg shells, fruit peels and pips.
For those on the road most of the day, another good investment is a larger cooler box for the boot of your car, to which you can add freezer bricks to keep your foods and beverages chilled throughout the day.
Cost-effective snack meal options:
- Chicken salad snack pots: Combine leftover chicken kebabs into a fresh salad and add chickpeas for a filling and enjoyable meal
- Homemade hummus with carrot and celery sticks
- Yoghurt dip with flavoured rice crisps, tomatoes and boiled eggs.
Other cost-saving tips include taking your own water bottle, ideally glass or a safe material for drinking water. Steer away from expensive take-away coffees; it is very easy to spend most of one’s snacking budget on a few of these quick fixes.
Who would have thought that we would be encouraged to snack on tasty foods instead of eating three square meals per day? With sound nutrition advice and access to so many new healthy snack options, the possibility to snack away to good health is becoming a reality!
DAILY SNACK PACK EXAMPLES *
References* In addition to breakfast and a wholesome cooked meal in the evening
- New Nutrition Business: 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition & Health 2016. Available from: http://www.new-nutrition.com/report/showReport/1380
- Hartman Group Surveys: Modern Eating, Eating Occasions 2013.