Snacking: An American Food Lifestyle

The Average American Added 1 Meal and 600 calories a Day to Their Diet over 30 Years.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Americans from the late seventies to mid 2000’s went from an average 3.8 meals and snacks a day to 4.9 a day — a 33% increase (1).


The Net Result

The average American now consume an extra 600 calories for a total average of 2,375 calories per day. The real driver of increased caloric intake is directly traced to increased snacking as the number of daily snack has doubled over the past 30 years.

Today, for 90% of the US population, snacks account for 50% of all eating occasions. But more disconcerting is that many Americans are replacing actual meals with snacks (2). For 17 million adult consumers (7% of the US population), snacking is their only source of daily food consumption.

What Drives Snacking?

In our fast pace lifestyle we eat on the go. We often combine eating with other activities such driving, reading, watching TV, working on the computer or social media networking. Consumers snack for several reasons:

  • Hunger: I do not have time to sit down and eat – Eating on the go often results in snacking.
  • Energy Boost: I’m dragging and need an energy lift – Snacks provide a quick energy lift.
  • Emotional: I am stressed out, bored or need a reward – snacks provide comfort.
  • Indulgence: Sweet or salty – Snacks satisfy a craving for an indulgent taste certain times of the day.
  • Availability: Snacks are everywhere – Where ever you go there is the allure of a snack.


What Healthy Snackers Want

A third of Americans are seeking healthier snacks. This is especially true for millennials and parents seeking to improve their children’s diet. They want the following considerations in their snack foods:

  • Healthy Choice: Simple ingredients and good nutrition
  • Lower Sugar: Avoid high sugar content snacks
  • Portion Control: Portion size snacks to manage calorie count
  • Indulgence: Satisfy my craving for taste and flavor


In our food-filled snack environment (3), we need to be conscious of “When We Eat, How Much We Eat, and What We Eat”. Sticking with three meals a day and choosing healthy snacks rather than processed foods with an eye on portions is one way to meet the demands of the modern American lifestyle of snacking.

With 33% of consumers saying they are snacking on healthier options, there is an increasing need for better-for-you snacks, in smaller portions and convenient formats. Consumers want snacks that balance both health and indulgence.

Author: Dr. Roger J. Best, Emeritus Professor of Marketing, University of Oregon and author of many articles and books on consumer behavior and marketing.

  1. Snack Attack! Americans Are Eating More Between Meals,” Meredith Melnick.
  2. A Snacking Nation: 94% of Americans Snack Daily,” July 9th, 2015.
  3. Snacking: The New American Pastime,” September 10, 2015, Lu Ann Williams,