Why do we crave snacks so much?

We tend to have to momentary cues – seeing them advertised, seeing someone else eating them, catching sight of them in a shop – often placed just as we are checking out – which reminds us of our own enjoyment of them. They are convenient, bite-sized, portable, and relatively low in cost. They are a quick fix for hunger pangs between meals and we can also multi-task when snacking which is why we often do it while watching TV or at our desks.

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How do they improve our mood? 

Sweet snacks comfort us, often reminding us of our childhood and happier times. Savoury snacks tend to be a less guilty form of snacking, made from potatoes or chicken, like Peperami Chicken Bites for example, and so feel more like a meal. Snacks with a high carb content have been shown to protect our brains from stress.

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What’s the favourite texture – crunchy or smooth?

Crunchy snacks are usually our go-to favourite because they feel more meal like and give us less of a sugar rush and a more sustained hunger fulfilment, as they tend to take longer to eat. They also tend to be thinner and smaller, so we are more like to eat more of them – as it’s easy to keep dipping our hand into that family bag of crisps. Some of our favourite snacks will combine both a crunch and a smoother section, covering all bases, so certain chocolate biscuits fulfil that need.

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Sweet or savoury?

We associate sweet snacks with being smooth and savoury snacks with being crunchy, so when that situation is reversed, we are more likely to feel less guilty about perceiving them as a ‘snack’ at all. Though when you get a savoury snack like a chicken bite, the smoothness of the texture combined with the healthier nature of the snack itself, is often the perfect combo.

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Favourite time of day?

Evenings are the biggest time for snacking. Although they are usually eaten in the gap between meals – sometimes between breakfast and lunch but more often between lunch and supper, they have now become so easy to eat – no cooking, no prep, available with a pull of a bag or a tear of a strip, we will often eat them simply because we are either on the move, lying in bed or as the research has shown, just about anywhere we can get a reassuring moment of privacy and comfort. Chocolate is a favourite just before we go to sleep because it feels soothing and helps us feel ready for a good night’s sleep – even though the sugar rush they actually give us will probably make good quality sleep less, not more likely.

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How many snacks a day?

Research has shown that people snack 2-3 times a day on average. Snacking is highest in the 6 – 18-year age group and lowest for over 55’s. Perhaps not surprising as the younger age group are in a growth period and so need more energy a day. Younger people will also eat more snacks together – a couple of bags of crisps, or a chocolate bar followed by a savoury snack. They are much more likely to be hungry for a greater part of the day, as they tend to be the most active group, burning up more calories and needing more constant energy.

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Do snack flavours reflect our personality?

The type of snack we eat will often reflect our attitude to eating and life in general – those with more adventurous tastes in food and higher risk tolerance will seek the same in snacks. They will also like the fun factor of trying new snack varieties. The more traditional amongst us, who are likely to eat less exotic food and maybe a little risk-averse, will very often keep to the same snacks – and the same flavour of those snacks – that we have always been familiar with.

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What will snacks look like in the future?

As we become more aware of our self-care and the balance of vitamins, proteins, and carbs that we should have in our lives for optimum health, snacks are likely to become more varied and unusual. Snacks we may never have thought of before. Technology in producing food will also change the kind of snacks we eat. As more of us are monitoring our meat intake, we’ll see more vegan and vegetarian snacks, nibbles without gluten and other potential allergens.  Protein which gives us energy and satisfaction is one of the most important ingredients of a snack. We may well be thinking of snacks, more like mini-meals – especially in increasingly busy lives, so rather than as an addition to our three meals a day, as they become healthier, they are likely to become a replacement for them

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