Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Nov 15, 2011 01:13 PM

How do Americans 'snack'?

In another board someone said that Europeans do not snack like Americans do.

So - how do Americans snack?

What counts as a snack, are they eaten instead of or as well as meals?

I am in England - if I am hungry before meal time I tend to have the meal early - but occasionally I will nibble a cracker or eat fruit and delay the meal. Is that different to American snacking?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. We snack like we vote, early and often.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      Exactly. How *don't* they snack?

      1. re: ferret

        GMTA!! Even before I opened the thread, after reading the headline, my first thought was also, "Early and often."

      2. The non health conscious ones(majority) eat processed foods you normally buy from a supermarket like Oreo cookies, premade apple pies made with artificial ingredients, gallons of ice creams, potato chips, Hershey's chocolate, candies with a lot of artificial colorings and flavors, mediocre baked goods from local bakeries and processed cheese products. Also frozen chicken wings and pizza.

        The healthier ones eat nuts, fruits, dry wholewheat crackers, dried fruits, dark chocolate, berries, yogurt...

        the somewhere in between people eat stuff like pita chips, store bought breakfast cereal bars and other store bought snacks that says something like, lower in sugar, lower in sodium...low fat potato chips, etc. Also stuff like dark chocolate covered dried fruits, etc.

        Snacking in america is depressing as heck.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Monica

          So is all that in addition to meals? Or do snacks=meals?

          Or do people 'graze'?
          (the ranges of foods are no different to what is available in the UK- and I'm sure many people eat junk all day - but it is not normal to do so).

          1. re: Peg

            These claims you're making about the UK are puzzling to me. I appreciate that you don't 'snack' but how do you account for elevenses or afternoon tea? More so here than anywhere else I've lived have I seen time taken out for tea and biscuits.
            And a wander through my town shows a great many people (young and old alike) enjoying crisps whenever.
            But maybe you are referring to grazing and snacking that falls outwith the established times?

            1. re: Lizard

              The snack & candy aisles I've seen in British supermarkets surpass anything I've seen in US supermarkets.

              "(the ranges of foods are no different to what is available in the UK- and I'm sure many people eat junk all day - but it is not normal to do so)."

              I've read statistics that Brits eat, on average, AT LEAST one candy bar a day.

              Not sure how mysterious the "American Way" of snacking is, compared to that or, for that matter, any different.

              The waist sizes are certainly catching up overseas...

              1. re: Lizard

                My grandma and grandpa stopped whatever they were doing twice a day every day for morning and afternoon tea - a cup of tea (made in a pot with real leaves) and a dry biscuit or a little piece of homemade cake about 1 inch square. Aside from the formality of it, I don't really see how that's different from my grabbing a small snack at 11 and 3 (or so)... how does anyone snack? When you get hungry, you get something to eat.

          2. A bag of cheap "tooth busting" tortilla chips and a half gallon of processed canned cheese sauce with a quart of Ranch on the side.

            1. Americans snack a lot. This is how I imagine people get their snacking in, based on my experience with mainstream American culture:

              Get up at 6 am and skip breakfast. Out the door and in the car for an hour or so commuting to work. Approaching work, stop and get a drive through coffee and breakfast. The coffee is loaded with creamer (either real or artificial) and sugar(real or artificial) and the breakfast is fatty and low in nutrients. This calorie bomb lasts for a good 3 hours until the caffeine starts to wear off. You work in a building with no access to fresh foods and have not had time to go shopping. Your office may have some snacks at the coffee station such as chips or candy. Often there is candy freely available. Or you need to go to a vending machine, which generally only sell candy, chips, and gum. They also sell sodas. Your lunch break may not be until 2 and you are feeling hungry, to stave that off you get a diet Coke and a candy bar. The combination of sugar and appetite inducing aspartame causes you to be hungry again in 2hours. You have a raging headache from dehydration, salt, and the caffeine and sugar lows. However, you are either unaware of what causes this or do not have the time to think about it. At 2 you are starving again and feeling sluggish and headachy, you get a large fast food meal with real soda and more caffeine. There is only one "healthy" restaurant around your workplace and they sell wilted salad and/or very fattening "gourmet" sandwiches. You go with the tried and true Whopper you've been eating since you were a child. You eat all the fries as it is the only vegetable you've had that day. Someone has some skittles later in the day and it clears your mouth of the dry fast food taste. You eat more, they taste like fruit. You don't like real fruit though because it's not sweet enough and usually mushy. After work you go home and crash in front of your TV. You worked a 12 hour shift and deserve to relax. You grab a bag of chips and salsa. MMM, the salsa tastes so fresh. You have nothing left in the fridge, you call a pizza delivery person and eat half of a large pie. The vegetables on the pizza taste terrible so you order only meat lovers and plain. To get rid of the taste of pizza you have some strawberry ice cream. See, you do like fruit...

              NOW, imagine if you also had childcare and other family responsibilities in this life...

              8 Replies
              1. re: fara

                Your scenario is scary and sad. I suspect it is true for many. It is not true for all. There are those of us who eat fresh, real, food and try to snack a little more constructively. Oh, and no one in my family gets away without breakfast!

                1. re: sandylc

                  yes, not everyone eats like that. but it requires a lot of effort to eat healthy here, in most cities anyway.

                  1. re: fara

                    That's true. Interestingly, my Italian teacher told our class that there are are "lot" of "really bad" restaurants in Italy. Sort of busts a few romantic European myths, doesn't it?

                    1. re: sandylc

                      I think "really bad" is relative to what your expectations are. My time in Italy has been very limited, but my very worst meals in the super touristy areas of Venice were leagues better than our bottom tier of The Olive Garden.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: sandylc

                        Yes, I've lived in Italy and eaten in one bad restaurant there. It was not only bad, it was probably a cover for a Mafia operation as the food was spoiled. We tried to send it back but they basically forced us to pay for it. There was another case where as students we were given two pasta courses for an exhorbitant price.
                        On the other hand, I never saw junk food there. I know it must exist, but there was a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish everywhere. The snacks at the boardwalk were delicious pizzas with mussels or other toppings. In Italy the food is amazing and fresh. Italians would have to look VERY hard to find bad food. Oh, and I looked the best I've ever looked after only two months of eating there (mostly in restaurants).

                      2. re: fara

                        Your comment reminds me of a visit to the UCLA campus where I saw two vending machines, in a picnic area on campus. One machine was filled with traditional junk food snacks and the other with nuts, fresh fruit, yogurt, etc. They were literally side-by-side. Both were comparably priced. And it occurred to me just how unrealistic an opportunity this was in non-UCLA society.

                        For those who love to scream about "choice", how often in life are we given this opportunity where good food and bad food are presented, in equal measure, on equal ground, for equal price and in equal quantity, for us to make a real choice about what we want to eat?

                        For most of America, we are limited to one or two "healthy" options (which may or may not remain healthy once the condiments, salad dressings, etc. are added) amid an ocean of terrible choices. That's the real reason for obesity in our country that we don't hear about-- it's the LACK of choice to access healthy foods *just as easily* and *just as affordably* as we can access the junk.

                        Mr Taster

                    2. re: fara

                      Good God! I do not know one person who eats like that. (This is in response to fara's Nov. 15 post.)

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        a lot of minimum wage workers I met after high school (who were in their 30's-50's) ate like this

                    3. I'm not sure there is a typical American way to snack, but snack food is readily available everywhere, so people often snack. You can buy all sorts of snacks at movie theaters, sports stadiums, art museums, grocers, filling stations, shopping malls and at least one library I've visited. Since food is everywhere, it is eaten by many. And then there are the snacks you buy premade and pull out of the freezer, or nuke in the micro at home. If you are chowish, you probably make many of your snacks from scratch. If you want to, you can drive through a fast food place and pick up a snack, and eat in on the road. Oh there are many and pernicious ways to snack in the USA.

                      I am on an eating schedule these days, and my schedule allows me 2 snacks per day. I almost always eat them. Being on a schedule keeps me from snacking so often at home or out and about.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: sueatmo

                        Very much this - you can get food EVERYWHERE. I recently started volunteering as an usher for the local professional theater company, and was shocked to learn that patrons are allowed to bring their candy bar and coffee into the theater. When I was a child in the 1980's, there were no refreshments at professional theater/music/dance performances (and I attend a lot of professional performances starting at age 8). We went for dinner before and dessert after. Food and drink absolutely weren't allowed in the theater due to noise and mess. As a child, it was one of the things that set it apart from the movies. Sometime in the 1990's, the theater added a refreshment stand in the lobby - you could get a glass of champagne or light snack at intermission, but had to finish before returning to your seats. Now, more and more theaters are allowing food and beverage in the seats, I spend half my time as a usher chasing people down to put lids on their coffee.

                        1. re: mpjmph

                          I was in London in the UK in the 80's (around '84) and went to the theater every night for about a week. They had very nice cocktails for offer at EVERY theater. Same with Lincoln Center in NY and the theaters on B'way, even some off broadway in the late 70's.

                          1. re: Linda VH

                            I went to London theater a lot in the 80s, too. I was a young teenager, so no cocktails for me -- but there was always ice cream!

                          2. re: mpjmph

                            As far back as the 70s in Philadelphia theaters snacks (for me) and cocktails (for the parents) were available. And they still are (though now I'm the one who gets the cocktail ;)

                          3. re: sueatmo


                            First you say:
                            >> I'm not sure there is a typical American way to snack

                            And then:
                            >> You can buy all sorts of snacks at movie theaters, sports stadiums, art museums, grocers, filling stations, shopping malls and at least one library I've visited.

                            The real point is that the lack of a particular style, time, etc. is what defines the American style of snacking (and our mindset about many things other than snacking). As with so many other aspects of our society, "I'll do it my way" is the law of the land.

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              I'll buy that. What I was thinking about there being no typical American way to snack is that we consume all sorts of stuff practically any time we want. Which is I guess is the common denominator--any time, any where, any amount.