Collections > Master's Papers > Gillings School of Public Health > A Snack by Any Other Name: Understanding and Defining Snacking in America

It is 10:30 am. You had a granola bar at 7:30 am before leaving for work, but your stomach is already grumbling. You normally have a larger breakfast, but you were in a hurry this morning. Fortunately, you remember you still have your yogurt in the office refrigerator from yesterday, so you'll have that with a handful of berries. How would you describe this situation? Was the yogurt and fruit a continuation of your breakfast, or would you consider it a snack? What if you had the yogurt and fruit as soon as you got to work at 8:00 am? Does this change your classification? There is no obvious consensus answer to these questions because interpretations of the situation will vary from individual to individual. Similarly, researchers have differing ideas about what constitutes a snack or snacking occasion, and these differences are reflected in their research. A wide body of snacking research exists, with topics ranging from the cognitive and behavioral factors that influence snacking to the relationship between snacking and obesity among Americans. However, there are currently no standardized definitions for the terms "snack" and "snacking occasion," which makes it difficult to compare study results. Research is most meaningful when studies can be compared, and the best comparisons are between studies that have as many common features. Consistency ampng snacking research studies is critical to provide the strongest evidence on the relationships between snacking and health outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the need for collaboration and research to determine standardized definitions of "snack" and "snacking occasion" and to bring the issue to the attention of academics, consumer research groups, governing agencies and professional groups that focus on health and nutrition issues, and the food industry.