The basic biological basis of eating is to gain energy in response to physiological, internal cues – your stomach rumbling. So why then, do so many of us (including myself) feel compelled to stuff our already stuffed stomachs?

A snack is defined as food consumed between meals. An unhealthy snack is high in fat and/or sugar.

New research found 6 reasons people commonly scoffed, scarfed, shoveled and stuffed themselves with unhealthy snack foods:

  1. To enjoy a  special occasion
  2. Opportunity induced eating (more below)
  3. To gain energy
  4. To reward oneself
  5. Social pressure
  6. To cope with negative emotions

The study included over 1,500 males and females. In line with previous findings, women more frequently reported snacking for a variety of the 6 reasons. Women tend to be more preoccupied with eating behavior than men.

Can we help it?

Yes, by thinking about why we are snacking, and understanding our triggers. Unhealthy snacking behaviors may be habit and performed automatically. For example, opportunistic eating (reason #2) includes things like:

  • Because I’m watching tv/a movie
  • Because the food tastes so good
  • Because the food is there

It is out of a lack of understanding people search for a reason to explain away or excuse their behavior.

Should we help it?

No… But yes. Replacing high fat/sugar snacks with healthy snacks is great. It supplements your diet with nutrients you could otherwise may miss out on. E.g., a snack like yogurt or a piece of fruit, you’re getting fiber, calcium, protein, other micronutrients, etc.

Really understanding and identifying why you’re snacking pinpoints your triggers. This allows you to make an informed, conscious decision, rather than an excuse. Being actively involved in your own decision making leads to less ‘regretful’ eating and allows you to enjoy the food (mindful eating).

If you’re ready to get into the Mini Meals Mindset at snack time, sign up below for my Snack Staples List and join my NIFTY community (NIFTY = Nutrition Info + Feeding Tips for You!)

Categories: Snacks


Hi, I'm Thalia the Dietitian 👋 I help parents overcome picky eating challenges, conquer mealtime battles and raise happy & healthy eaters. My unique approach to parenting at mealtimes uses elements of the “division of responsibility”, but goes even further when it comes to restricting (or not restricting) foods like dessert. I help parents through my courses and 1-1 coaching program approach mealtime situations from a place of respect, curiosity, and understanding to achieve their desired results. It’s my belief that every child deserves a healthy relationship with food, and every parent can give this gift to their child. I have a Master’s Degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics and I'm mum to two little ladies (and a retired guide dog lab.)


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