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NEW ORLEANS -- The tradition of eating three meals a day has become a thing of the past. In fact, a quarter of Americans' daily caloric intake now comes from snacks and drinks consumed between meals, according to research presented at the IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) Expo held here last week.
U.S. consumers are snacking more than ever, the research revealed, and busy lifestyles are largely responsible for the increase in on-the-go eating and drinking.
"Between 1977 and 2006, snacking in the American diet has grown to constitute a ‘full eating event,' or a fourth meal, averaging 580 calories each day," Richard Mattes, professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University told foodnavigator-usa.com. Mattes added that although snacking has increased dramatically, the time spent eating meals has remained constant at 70 minutes a day.
Although the research is telling because it shows that many people don't only eat main meals anymore, it's uncertain whether increased snacking leads to any negative effects, such as obesity. "The literature [presented at the IFT Expo] does not support the intuitive notion that increased consumption of snack foods is an independent cause of obesity," said Harvey Anderson, of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto.