Snacks Are Bullshit

An impassioned argument

03.16.17
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Snacks are not a meal, this is a fact upon which we can all agree. Snacks aren’t warming, filling or nourishing. They’re by nature light bites, designed to not fill you up completely. To not fill you is the exact point, actually. This is why I posit that snacks are inferior and should be avoided.

Eat too many snacks and you feel terrible. A tray full of cubes of cheese? Nausea and regret. A bag of tortilla chips? Sickening. A deep bowl of crudite? Both hollow and overstuffed. Once I ate about a cup of tigernuts on an empty stomach (don’t ask) and I almost vomited in a meeting (true story).

A snack will never satisfy you like a meal. Snacks seemed to be designed to leave you wanting more. Who can eat just a handful of nuts? Snacks are bullshit.

French women don’t eat snacks, right? Blue-zone dwellers don’t, either — they linger over hearty, delicious meals. Meanwhile, Americans’ brains are constantly tricking us into snacking. In February, trade magazine Nation’s Restaurant News reported that, “visits to restaurants during snack occasions rose 3 percent in the year ended September 2016.” (Bolded for emphasis of ridiculous phrasing). Lunch visits were down two percent, breakfast was only up one percent and dinner was flat.

The snack industry is booming. In an attempt to reinvigorate its business, Hershey has decided to focus on becoming a “more diversified snack company,” and will, “expand its breadth across the snackwheel by capturing new usage occasions and participating in on-trend categories.” (Trends include shorter ingredient lists, plant protein, added probiotics and less sugar.) Meanwhile, “healthy” snacks are bolstering PepsiCo’s bottom line.

“Afternoon snack is the strongest-performing meal occasion for the year,” said one restaurant analyst. Are we all preschoolers? WTF is happening? Turns out it’s generational. According to market research company Mintel, millennials are, by far, the snackiest generation. The way things are going, soon all our meals will be supplemented — or flat-out replaced — by snacks. Their research finds that 94% of Americans eat at least one snack per day, with millennials more likely to eat four or more a day. Half our eating is snacking. Why? We are either too busy to sit down and eat a proper meal or we just don’t feel like cooking.

Even though I hate snacks on principle (and to be contrarian, as I am prone to be), like practically everyone else in this country I fall prey to their siren song at least once per day. Just this afternoon, I had an overpriced smoothie and a fistfull of roasted almonds. Other days it’s an apple, a banana or something weirder, like a cup of lentil soup. It’s 4:30 p.m. right now and I feel that old, familiar hankering. Okay, fine, I guess I’ll make another exception. Give me a fucking snack.

Illustration by Meghann Stephenson, follow her on Instagram @meghannfinley.

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