Is that a meal or a snack?

How the old-fashioned, humble approach to morning or arvo teatime has changed.

Written by David Cameron-Smith

Snacking has come along way from a simple piece of fruit, a biscuit or even a slice of cake. First came the muffin, the now ubiquitous blob of cooked, stodgy cake batter that has grown and morphed into a solid colossus that sits astride any café counter. Along the way the simple scone and jam has been relegated into history. The sad demise of the scone or slice has taken a sugar and flour-rich snack and added a whole lot of additional calories in fat. The average muffin can hide away at least double (and frequently much more) fat than the simple scone that began life with butter being rubbed into flour. Taking this to a whole new realm is the recently invented cronut (sometimes also known as a doissant), a form of deep-fried croissant.

It is not just the snacks that have changed (for the worse), but also the way we snack. Snacks are now increasingly eaten on the run or nibbled whilst we still seamlessly continue sending emails or updating social media. The snack market for the busy person on the go has been captured by the proliferation of dollar deals. A burger for just a few bucks, dollar fries and of course the accompanying soft drink has created a boom for fast food outlets. The times between traditional lunch and dinner are busy with ever-hungry people flocking to grab these bargain snack. In a stroke of genius, marketing brains of the fast food industry have taken the burger from the staid realm of just three daily meals into the limitless world of snacking.

The trend of downsizing and repackaging meals to snacks has been at work in the office for many years. The snack bar that started out as a muesli bar has taken on a life form all of its own, with a staggering array of healthy, healthier and healthiest varieties, all neatly wrapped and ready to go, anytime. However, the snack bar is old news in the world of snacks-to-go. Instant noodles to pouches of lumpy-stuff-ness lie hidden and ready to be grabbed in desk drawers, bags and purses. These all cater to the rise of grazing eating. Grazers are too busy to stop, prepare, eat and digest. Instead it’s snacks at the ready, all day long.

How to snack smarter

There are of course many ways to bust hunger and avoid snacking. This begins with the need to be aware of the twin perils of snacking: boredom and stress. A few deep breaths, a coping strategy or some supportive advice can help to ease the stress snack glut. The other requirement of snack training is a steady nerve and a close eye on the clock. Not yielding to the first hunger pang, but instead developing a steady and considered snack routine are major steps towards being ‘snack fit’.

However, the key step is to remember is that a snack be just that: a small, bite-sized nibble. The choices of healthy snacks are many and varied, from the frequently forgotten fruit that too often lies slowly rotting in fruit bowls, to nuts and low-fat (unsweetened) yoghurt. And, let’s not forget the occasional homemade slice and even the humble scone.

Written by David Cameron-Smith

Professor David Cameron-Smith is a health expert and the current Chair in Nutrition at the Liggins Institute, University of Auckland.


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