There are several factors that contribute to why we snack. Things like hunger, location, social/food culture and environment, cognitive factors, and hedonic (“pleasure”) eating1. A recent review aimed to tell us more about our snacking habits, in hopes of changing policy and promoting healthier snacking behaviors1. Let’s dive deeper into what the researchers found on how snacking is influenced by these factors so we can become smarter snackers!
Hunger: Snacking when you’re not hungry leads to higher fat, sugar, and sodium- rich foods, which may then promote weight gain and poor nutrition. One study found that the main driver of why we snack when we are not hungry is simply because food becomes available2.
Take Away: Snack when you’re hungry.
Location: Eating at work or home is associated with more healthful snack choices3. This may be because availability of healthy snacks (high fat, low fiber) or larger snack portions. A study of Norwegian adults found that snacks eaten in workplace settings were lower in sugar and higher in protein4. This may be because at work we may have meals catered, or lunch taken out, but snacks are often brought from home. I know my desk drawer is packed with healthy snacks like FITCRUNCH and FITBAR!
Take Away: Be prepared with snacks for work/travel when you have more choices.
Social/Food Culture and environment: Interestingly enough, who we eat with and what they eat influences how and what we eat5. A concept called “social modeling” describes how our eating companions affect our portion size6. When they eat more, we eat more. When they eat less, we eat less. Smells, appearance, and even just seeing an empty wrapper can cause us to snack when we’re not hungry.
Take Away: Focus less on what people around you are eating, and more on listening to their feelings, emotions, stories. Find confidence in your choices, it’s no biggy -it’s what you need in this moment (whether that is more or less than the people around you).
Distracted Eating: Eating meals while watching tv, playing video games, or browsing on your phone may increase the amount of snacks you eat later in the day7-9. It may be because we have reduced hunger cues due to the distractions. This may lead to overconsumption of snacks or increased consumption at the next occasion.
Take Away: Practice mindful eating and staying present during snack and mealtimes.
Emotional Eating: Emotional eating is extremely complex and could be influenced by numerous psychological and behavioral health factors10. However, it may also contribute to more snacking if we are feeling rewarded by the snacks consume.
Take Away: Assess your emotions before reaching for a snack. Is there a certain emotion that drives you more towards snacking? Follow up with a healthcare professional if you feel like this is significantly impacting your life.
No matter why we snack, we can create healthier snack habits. FITCRUNCH bars, puffs, and FITBARS provide you with healthy snack options. Now it’s up to you to decide when to eat them up and maximize the benefits!
- Hess, J. M., Jonnalagadda, S. S., & Slavin, J. L. (2016). What Is a Snack, Why Do We Snack, and How Can We Choose Better Snacks? A Review of the Definitions of Snacking, Motivations to Snack, Contributions to Dietary Intake, and Recommendations for Improvement. Advances in Nutrition, 7(3), 466–475. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.115.009571
- Chapelot D. The role of snacking in energy balance: a biobehavioral ap- proach. J Nutr 2011;141:158–62.
- Kerr MA, McCrorie TA, Rennie KL, Wallace JMW, Livingstone MBE. Snacking patterns according to location among Northern Ireland chil- dren. Int J Pediatr Obes 2010;5:243–9.
- Myhre JB, Løken EB, Wandel M, Andersen LF. The contribution of snacks to dietary intake and their association with eating location among Norwegian adults—results from a cross-sectional dietary sur- vey. BMC Public Health 2015;15:369.
- Prinsen S, de Ridder DTD, de Vet E. Eating by example. Effects of en- vironmental cues on dietary decisions. Appetite 2013;70:1–5.
- Hermans RCJ, Herman CP, Larsen JK, Engels RCME. Social modeling effects on young women’s breakfast intake. J Am Diet Assoc 2010;110: 1901–5.
- Robinson E, Aveyard P, Daley A, Jolly K, Lewis A, Lycett D, Higgs S. Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:728–42.
- Oldham-Cooper RE, Hardman CA, Nicoll CE, Rogers PJ, Brunstrom JM. Playing a computer game during lunch affects fullness, memory for lunch, and later snack intake. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;93:308–13.
- Chapman CD, Nilsson VC, Thune HÅ, Cedernaes J, Le Grevès M, Hogenkamp PS, Benedict C, Schiöth HB. Watching TV and food in- take: the role of content. PLoS One 2014;9:e100602.
- Franken IHA, Muris P. Individual differences in reward sensitivity are related to food craving and relative body weight in healthy women. Ap- petite 2005;45:198–201.
(If you want to link to a great post here, I had a friend sum up intuitive eating which goes more into this- or I could write another post on it).