Ice cream vendors across the country are rolling out free desserts on Sunday to celebrate National Ice Cream Day, which was named by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1984. They’re obviously hoping people will forget the calorie content and keep on enjoying these sugar-laden treats throughout the summer. Come Monday, however, it may be time for adults to give their sweet tooth a rest again.
Americans who are keeping tabs on their weight (and the health of their teeth) might do well to watch the clock — at least, when it comes to their daily snacking habits. Snacks that are “better for you” such as nuts, vegetable slices or fruits peak at around noon, followed by a slightly smaller rise in savory and sweet snacks at the same time of day, according to a new survey by market research company The NPD Group, but sweet snacks such as candy, chocolate and ice-cream peak in the evening just after 8 p.m.
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A third of snack and/or appetizers are consumed during — or instead of — lunch or dinner are savory snacks such as chips, pretzels and crackers. An average 1.9-ounce Danish pastry has over 200 calories, for instance, and a 1.6-ounce chocolate chip cookie from Subway has 220 calories. Over one-third of snacks consumed after dinner are sweet, but over 40% of snacks carried from home and eaten at school, work, in the car, or at other locations are regarded as “better for you” than chocolate, cake and candy, such as nuts or other healthier snacks, NPD found.
The popularity of certain snacks is also relate to particular holidays, as much as the time of day, says Darren Seifer, NPD’s food and beverage industry analyst. Sweet snack consumption spikes in November — eating Halloween treats during and especially after the festivities. So-called better-for-you or healthier snacking decreases in November and December, and savory snacking hits its peak in December and January with savory snacks during the holidays, he says.
Snacking is an easy way to break a diet, says Elizabeth DeRobertis, head dietician at the Scarsdale Medical Group in Scarsdale, N.Y. “You need to make a strategic snacking plan,” she says. “In the afternoon between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., most frequent time people feel a dip in energy, especially if they are in an office environment or have kids coming home from school.” And if you hear a co-worker unwrapping a candy bar? Have a packet of almonds or apple in your desk to avoid the vending machine.
If you don’t have cookies, you’re less likely to eat them. Snacking can be a form of stress management rather than physical hunger, DeRobertis says. “Our body is taught to look for certain foods for certain times, just like a baby looking for a bottle,” she says. Keep a safe food environment. Don’t buy the foods that you are likely to over-consume after dinner.” She suggests stocking your fridge with a Greekyogurt or fresh fruit popsicle that are 100 calories or less.Unhealthy foods can sneak up on you: One cup of trail mix can be over 600 calories.
And you’re more likely to snack if you’re alone, a separate survey by The NPD group found. In 2014, the average American eating alone consumed a snack food as a meal 191 times, up from 167 times in 2011, equating to billions more calories every year. Around one-quarter of the average daily calorie is due to snacks and effectively constitute a fourth meal, according to researchers at the 2011 expo of the Institute of Food Technologists, a nonprofit scientific society of those working in food science.
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