Snacks Become Centerpiece of the American Meal
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Snacks Become Centerpiece of the American Meal


Snacks, long a staple of the American diet, are now becoming so popular they’re replacing main meals.

Don’t worry about your waistline, though – snacks are also becoming healthier.

Related: The 10 Healthiest Fast Food Meals

Snack food eaten at main meals will grow about 5 percent over the next five years, or to 86.4 billion “eatings” in 2018, according to a report, “The Future of Eating: Who’s Eating What in 2018,” released last week by the NPD Group, a market research firm.

“It’s being consumed alongside a main meal or as a main meal,” said Darren Seifer, a food and beverage industry analyst with the NPD Group.

Still, we’d be mistaken to assume that Americans are eating chips and candy for dinner. Consumers are turning to healthy snacks, or as NDP calls them, “better-for-you snacks,” to go with or to replace their meals --  including fresh yogurt, nuts or fresh fruits.

Related: Sneaky Ways Food Companies Make You Eat Price Increases

One reason for this shift is that consumers want convenient – and healthy – meals. 

Seifer noted that for several years now, consumers have been preparing fewer side dishes to go with their main meals. “That doesn’t mean consumers don’t want well-rounded meals,” he said, adding that hard and chewy candies are falling out of favor with Americans, in part because of concerns around high-fructose corn syrup.

This growing trend of including healthy snacks in main meals is particularly obvious with millennials and Generation Z, those 23 and younger. “We’re certainly seeing an interest in freshness among the younger generation,” Seifer said.

Here are other options for healthy snacks:

  • Kale chips
  • Beet Chips
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Carrots and hummus
  • Celery and peanut butter
  • Watermelon with chile, salt and lime juice
  • Goat cheese on figs with honey
  • Olives
  • Avocado

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