Around this time of year, many people are knee-deep in their New Year’s resolutions—and if those resolutions involve eating better, they’re probably still trying to find a cadence of healthy meal ideas.
In fact, Google search volume data shows that interest in “meal prep” peaks every January only to steadily decline, reach a low dip around the holidays and then surge even higher again the next year. However, “snack prepping” or “healthy snacking” are almost absent from search data nationwide.
While healthy meal planning habits are a good goal to have, solely focusing on them misses all the bites in between—and this might partially explain why the rapid growth in healthy food trends doesn’t translate into reversal of chronic conditions in the U.S.
We eat chips and granola bars and fruit snacks and muffins. We grab things on the go and eat in our cars and at our desks. We buy treats on road trips and when we’re bored, stressed or tired. We unwrap packages—impulsively and robotically—because they’re easy, fast and readily available.
But those same things we rely on to nourish and energize us have added sugar, bad fats and a complete dearth of what the body needs to thrive and defend itself from disease.
So here’s the question: Are we damaging our health—not meal by meal, but snack by snack? And if so, what do we do about it?
Many health experts have long counseled consumers to spread their calorie intake throughout the day into smaller meals, and despite mixed evidence, Americans have taken that message to heart.
A 2019 report from Mondelēz International showed that 60 percent of U.S. consumers preferred eating frequent small meals instead of fewer big meals. That shift brought with it the rise of snacking: People now eat twice as many snacks as they did in the 1970s, a time when 41 percent of Americans never snacked at all.
Now, 9 in 10 of us snack at some point in the day, mostly in the afternoons—and mostly to get a physical or mental pick-me-up. For roughly 83 percent of people, snacking brings back good feelings of nostalgia.
Plus, snacking is unique and personal. People cook meals for their family, but they snack for themselves, so said 70 percent of respondents from Mondelēz International’s report. Often, snacking is a self-reward, as the “treat yourself” mantra holds strong.
Snacking has become such a fixed part of our culture that there’s no way to detach it from the American experience. It’s entangled in our habits, our memories and our own self-identity—more than elsewhere in the world, even.
If we were eating wholesome, nutrient-dense choices, these statistics wouldn’t be so concerning. But we’re not, and that spells big problems for public health.
Despite the fact that big brands continue to peddle packaged snacks as healthy, wholesome and natural—with multiple FDA run-ins to show for it—mainstream snacks still aren’t very nutritious, by and large.
Added sugar disproportionately comes from processed snacks and drinks: These “non-meals” contribute to about 81 percent of the added sugar in the average person’s diet. Added sugar, coupled with sodium and unhealthy fats, appear in many of the country’s most popular snackable favorites, yet many snacks have lower proportions of Vitamin A, folate, Vitamin D and other nutrients.
All told, these high-calorie, nutrient-deficient choices have created an unhealthy diet that puts Americans at risk for preventable problems like obesity and diabetes, while adding some $50 billion in costs to the U.S. medical system each year.
The rise of healthier snacking options is undeniable. You can always find options labeled as low-fat, low-sugar or low-calorie to control damage and lower your exposure to mainstream processed junk snack options-but that’s not enough as it misses the very point of nutrient-density.
While, the average American spends around $1 a day on snacking, it’s nearly impossible to buy fruits and veggies under that cost. But picking up a week’s supply of sugary granola bars for under $5? Totally doable, and if you have a manufacturer’s coupon, you can afford to grab crackers too. Because crop incentives tend to favor grains over greens, the math doesn’t favor anyone, much less those with limited budgets.
The cost of junk snack bundles remain the standard consumers build their price perception on so when you factor in that junk food marketing has evolved in its creativity and footprint—and that colorful packaging psychologically triggers shoppers—it gets even more complicated to sell and distribute snacks people can use as building blocks of a healthy body.
At WeTheTrillions, we believe that food can do more than just provide energy and fill cravings. Food is an opportunity to bring to life hundreds of clinically-proven protocols to help cater to each person’s specific health needs.
While precision nutrition based on genetics and microbiome science is still at a very early stage, tangible results can be reached by using what randomized controlled trials have proven to be effective on humans-and that’s precisely what we do. The science of nutrition is often the source of heated debates between different diets.
We are launching a nationwide program to help people dealing with specific chronic conditions such as diabetes, iron-deficiency anemia, and IBS as well as people of all ages dealing with PCOS, endometriosis, fertility treatments, heavy PMS or peri and post menopause symptoms. Our program stems from a combination of evidence-based third-party research coupled with customized functional health support to offer indulging nutrient-dense snacks and staples delivered to your doorstep. We also pair you with a functional health specialist to track progress and make sure your goals are met.
The narrative around snacking has to change. Want to get it started? Take the 3-minute online free assessment quiz to see if this is a program that would work for you.