Ask pretty much anybody, and they’ll likely tell you that they snack between meals. I know I do.

This study, which examined snacking trends between 1977 and 2006, found that not only are more people eating more snacks but that today’s snacks are more calorically dense than they were in 1970’s.

In 2006, 97% of people reported consuming snacks on a regular basis, up from 71% in the 1970’s. The total contribution of the snacks to daily calorie consumption also rose from 18% to 24% during that time. That means the average American now gets about a quarter of their calories from snacks.

Given the popularity of the “six small meals” eating pattern a lot of people say they adhere to, that’s not a surprising figure. However, it’s safe to assume that something’s a little off, since people overall are consuming more calories per day. It seems that many forget about the operative word: small. Instead of eating snacks in place of meals, a lot of people are eating three regular-sized meals and snacks. No wonder there’s an two-thirds of the population is overweight. It’s hard to ignore food when it’s shoved in your face 24/7.

It’s really all about balance, but it’s hard to tune in to your personal hunger cues when there are tons of opportunities to eat stuff you don’t need in places that weren’t thought of as appropriate places to eat thirty years ago. Would your grandmother have eaten in a store? Make sure you carve out some time for yourself every day to sit down for even just a couple minutes and focus simply on eating. Enjoy it. Though it might often feel like we’re expected to be running around on all cylinders all the time, it really is important to slow down and take care of ourselves.

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