Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Snacks

In the summer, having more free time, taking road trips, and spending days at the beach or pool all can lead to more snacking.  Snacks are now defined as anything smaller than a meal.  According to a recent report from the Hartman Group, a consulting firm that focuses on consumer culture, snacks now represent half of our eating occasions.  Snacks are also bound by fewer "rules" than meals.

The report, "Modern Eating: Cultural Roots, Daily Behaviors" looks at physically driven, emotionally driven and socially or culturally driven eating.  Snacks can meet all three different consumer needs.  With food and beverages available 24-7 in our culture, consumers often snack even when they have no desire for food or drink - what the researchers call "aimless snacking".
Other than summer schedules, researchers acknowledge that things like the demands of work, commuting to and from work, raising families, social interaction, holidays, kids’ after-school or weekend activities tend to throw the traditional view of mealtime out the window.

The report goes on to give advice to food companies, restaurants, and marketers to help them meet the needs of consumers. Health minded consumers can remain in control and practice mindful rather than aimless snacking by:
  • Plan ahead:  pack a cooler.
  • Depart and return on time so that mealtimes stand a chance of being honored.
  • Keep snacks in your desk or car - snacks that you have chosen for their nutritional merits rather than grabbed from the vending machine or drive through.
  • On the road?  Plan when and where you will stop to eat.  Decide what you will choose before you hit the drive through or see the glossy photos on the menu.
  • Portion snacks as soon as you get them home from the store so they are at the ready. This includes washing and chopping or slicing veggie snacks.
  • Make a menu.  Sounds old-school?  It is, but it works.  If you plan it/buy it/defrost it, you are much more likely to eat it.
  • Rethink schedules - lazy days of summer, not having sports practice every night of the week, and staying home are okay. 
  • Family mealtimes are as important as anything else you may schedule.
  • Look at your physical, emotional, and social/cultural prompts to eating and reconsider your response.

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