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Dutchess_III's avatar

When did this idea of "snacks" take hold in America?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42493points) March 31st, 2016

We had “snacks” as a kid, but they were an occasional thing, not a part of our every day diet.
Now we seem to have “after school snacks,” and “bed time snacks,” and snacks in the middle of the day, and snacks all the time.

“Snacks” is a very funny sounding world.

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32 Answers

janbb's avatar

It seems to me that an after school snack was common even when I was a kid; what’s changed is the constant snacking all day – even in the library!

Dutchess_III's avatar

I remember getting something to eat after school when I was in High School because I was hungry. I’d make some cinnamon toast and watch Gilligan’s island.

I just don’t remember snacks as a part of my every day diet. If we went on a car trip, Mom didn’t bring any chips or anything to munch on if we got hungry. We just had to clamor that we were getting hungry, then wait another hour or two, and then, finally, Dad would pull over at a restaurant somewhere to eat. Usually Howard Johnsons. OMG, their chocolate sundaes…..

zenvelo's avatar

Well, it was common in the fifties. June always had cookies and milk when Beaver got home from school. And comedians in the 60s talked about stale graham crackers as a kindergarten snack.

canidmajor's avatar

“Snacks” for kids as been around forever, especially during growth periods, kids need to refuel often. And as we get busier and busier as adults it makes sense to have a quick nosh available as meals are often rushed or non-existent for an over-activitied adult. Mild pancreatic dysfunction runs in my family, so grazing keeps my blood sugar levels steadier.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I remember graham crackers in kindergarten.

jca's avatar

Snacks were not uncommon when I was growing up in the 1970’s.

As for people eating at night, maybe people didn’t refer to it as a snack, but many people still don’t consider it a snack. It’s just “eating.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’ve always viewed it as eating when you aren’t really hungry.

canidmajor's avatar

Well, this definition doesn’t say anything about not being hungry. Just saying.

JLeslie's avatar

We “ate” something after school. We didn’t call it a snack. We also didn’t eat or drink in our car, except long trips. I grew up thinking snack food was potato chips and Doritos and we didn’t have much of that. Sometimes we used the word nosh, which means snack, if we were going to have a little something, but usually we didn’t use nosh for a daily regular meal, it was more like when there is food in front of you so you eat it, even when you weren’t planning to.

zenvelo's avatar

One thing to remember is that there has been a whole industry built up in the last fifty years over “single-serve processed foods”, i.e., snack food.

It started with small boxes of raisins and then single serving bags pf potato chips. And then, cheese’n’crackers, and vending machine ho-hos and twinkies.

And now there are lunchables. I worked with a woman who started bringing lunchables to work for lunch; after a month or so she began to eat it on her coffee break and going back out at lunch for a sandwich.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@canidmajor it’s doesn’t say anything about being hungry, either. It just says something that’s eaten between meals.

jca's avatar

The issue of people eating when they’re not hungry is a whole nother question.

We don’t call snacks “snacks” or “snacking. ” We just refer to it as “eating.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

I just wonder what the idea behind it all is. We’re already over fed. Why do we need to give our kids, or ourselves, snacks / food to eat between meals? It won’t hurt them, or us, to be hungry for a couple of hours before a proper meal is ready. The idea seems to be a relatively new one. @zenvelo probably nailed it.

canidmajor's avatar

What do you consider “relatively new”? I remember my Dad talking about what he and his brothers had for snacks when he was young. In the 1930s. The idea of three standard meals at specific times is a cultural construct. My friends in the UK think of “tea” as a real meal, that makes four for them. We are over fed because of amount, not frequency.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK, so we’re over fed because of amount. Adding snacks increases the amount.

canidmajor's avatar

Really, @Dutchess_III, are you being that obtuse as a joke? You forgot the tilde.
If not, then do the (very simple) math. 100 units of food per day is 100 units, whether consumed in three meals at 33.3333333(ad infinitum) or three meals at 30 units per meal and two snacks at 5 units per snack.
I don’t know the origin of the word “snack” but it has been around my entire life, and, I suspect, even longer. The obesity epidemic didn’t happen because of snacks, it has more to do with the processing of food so weirdly, and other factors, not snacks.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III When I used to come home from school I was very hungry. When I was a kid I only are when I was hungry (I wish that was still the case). It’s like a tea time, which is formalized in more than one country.

Maybe because @jca and I are from the same neck if the woods we just think if it and refer to it as eating. It’s all eating. I hadn’t even read her answers above mine when I first answered, but now I see the similarities.

dammitjanetfromvegas's avatar

Adding snacks increases the amount.

Only if you eat large meals. It’s very common for people to graze throughout the day. Small portions every 3–4 hours is a healthy way to eat.

jca's avatar

They also say that eating 4 to 5 small meals throughout the day is better for people with conditions like diabetes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think most people generally have breakfast, lunch and dinner. I did growing up. My kids did growing up. We didn’t “graze” in between meals because, as mom said, “It will ruin your appetite.” And this is true. She wanted us to actually be hungry when the dinner she’d worked on for an hour or so was ready. And we were!

This eating 3 times a day really is a social construct. It’s based roughly on a farmer’s work schedule. As an adult, I only eat twice a day, breakfast and “dinner,” which is usually around 3:00. I don’t eat again after that.

I don’t eat when I’m not hungry, and when I do get hungry I usually wait a couple of hours before I eat. Hell, on Sundays I may not eat at all until “dinnertime” at 3:00. Here at work I will snack on sunflower seeds at “lunch” time. It’s kind of a stress reliever thing. Breaks the tedium of just sitting at my desk.

The problem with it is it does increase the quantity of food that we eat. We’re used to having X-amount of food at breakfast, and at lunch, and at dinner. When we rather mindlessly snack (like me and my sunflower seeds,) we still eat the same X-amount at our regular meals.

As @Zenvelo said, he worked with a woman who started bringing lunchables to work for lunch. After a month or so she began to eat it on her coffee break and going back out at lunch for a sandwich.

Snacks just weren’t a thing for me growing up, and it wasn’t for my kids either. I just wonder if they have a culture of “snacks” in between meals in other countries.

jca's avatar

Maybe the people from Australia, Ireland, the UK and Vietnam can answer what the deal is with eating in their countries.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think it would be interesting @jca. I’m going to flag a couple of them on this.

I just don’t recall the words, “After school snack,” becoming a mantra with the kids until the 90’s or so. Sure I was hungry when I got home from school, but we were going to eat in an hour or two so I just waited. Maybe my family was weird.
When I got older I’d make my own, a piece of toast or something.

Once, when my friend and I were young mothers, she was cooking dinner for her two kids. It wasn’t going to be ready for about half an hour, and her 4 year old was carrying on about how hungry she was. Mom handed her a box of crackers. The kid walked around the house with this box, eating crackers.
Then dinner was ready and Mom got really mad that the kid didn’t want to eat it, after whining about how hungry she was.
I was able to tactfully point out that she’d just eaten a whole bunch of crackers and that’s probably why she wasn’t hungry.
Mom said, ”....I never thought of that.”

Mimishu1995's avatar

So this is how I got this so-American question :p

I don’t know about the US, and from a quick look at the answers it seems that Americans use “snack” to refer to “light meal”, but here we use “snack” to refer to this, this and this
(actually the second is very popular in our local grocery stores :D). And the Vietnamese word for them is also “snack”, surprisingly. “Light meal” and “snack” are two distinctive terms, you can’t mix them up when someone tell you to “eat a light meal” or “eat some snack” in Vietnamese.

So by default I assume that Americans are talking about crisps when they say “snack”, and that was exactly what was going on in my mind when I read this question title. Even at school we were taught the same thing in English lessons. I was surprised when I saw that this question isn’t about crisps at all. I really don’t know how they got the term from, maybe something got lost in translation when crisps came to Vietnam?

janbb's avatar

@Mimishu1995 It’s used for both – a light meal and “junk food.”

Mimishu1995's avatar

@janbb I know, but at school I was never taught that it also meant “light meal”, I only found out much later. And in some cases the Vietnamese “snack” isn’t junk food in general, but specifically “crisp” “potato chip”.

jca's avatar

A bunch of people who grew up prior to the 90’s are saying we ate snack food.

dammitjanetfromvegas's avatar

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s we usually ate dinner around 7pm. We waited for my father to get home from work.

If lunch was at noon that’s a long time for an active, growing child/teen to go without food. I often came home from school and ate a snack. I might have had grapes, grahm crackers, cereal, string cheeses, crackers or ice cream. My children have also done the same. None of us became overweight.

JLeslie's avatar

Many children eat lunch at 11:00am and sometimes even earlier. Waiting until after their parents are home from work for another bite of food is a long time. I wasn’t able to load up my stomach with a big meal. I was a skinny little girl and asking me to force feed myself at one sitting was like torture to me. Breaking my arm would incite the same fear in me. A small something after school kept me from feeling starving. It didn’t ruin my dinner. I didn’t eat a lot of food. I never are a lot of food at any meal. I couldn’t. My food needs changed over time, like most kids. Growth spurts, and for other reasons, my appetite changed.

Being very hungry because you didn’t get to eat when mildly hungry means you will likely eat a lot when you finally have access to food. That’s why the kid stuffed his tummy full of crackers. 4 crackers one to two hours before might have avoided that scenario and not ruined his (was it a boy?) appetite for dinner.

My inlaws only eat twice a day usually. I think that probably explains early bird specials in Florida. As we age we need fewer calories. Our cells are not multiplying and dividing at the same rate as when we were younger, our metabolism is slower, often we are less active (not always) and so we don’t need as many calories.

As far as the farm, the way I learned it, the biggest meal was in the middle of the day on the farm. That is not the case for most school children in America. They are rushed through a relatively small meal.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hm. Well, I was hungry after school, but I had to wait till dinner at about 6. I remember a few times mom handing me a piece of whatever she was working on for dinner saying, “This’ll hold you over.” It was never more than two bites of whatever. I would call that a “snack.”
Mostly I just went outside to play until Mom called us in. I didn’t hurt me none. I was just ready to seriously dig in at dinner. Unless I didn’t like it, which was rare. Then I had to wait till breakfast.

I don’t remember any “snacks” in the house. Sometimes apples and bananas would show up, and I could eat those at any time I wanted, but I never wanted to. Guess I wasn’t that hungry.

And what the hell is that crawdad looking snack thing in your second picture @Mimishu1995? I would NEVER, not in a MILLION YEARS consider a crawdad a “snack”!

My husband is a pretty big fan of “snacks.” When I clean the car out I find a collection of empty trail mix bags, candy bar wrappers, cookie wrappers, plastic cups that hold pre-cooked foods, like chicken or cheese nuggets, from some convenience stores that have kitchens. Those are snacks to him.
I, on the other hand, would consider one of those plastic cup things of chicken or cheese nuggets an entire meal.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@Dutchess_III that’s not crawdad, that’s shrimp crisp. Think potato chips with shrimp flavor, except that thing is made from wheat not potatoes.

jca's avatar

@Dutchess : do you take vitamin supplements? The way you describe your diet, cconsidering crackers to be a meal, (and by your own admission not eating many meals ) I wonder if your vitamin levels are ok.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Shrimp crackers? Gross!

You misunderstood me @jca. I said a cup full of chicken nuggets would fill me up so I wouldn’t be hungry until the next meal. They also have cups of some sort of tasty potato and cheese nuggets. A cup of those would fill me up as well. However, a cup of crackers would also fill me up. So would 10 Girl Scout cookies. That is why I avoid those kinds of “snacks,” and just hang out until the next actual meal.

My vitamin levels are fine, my cholesterol levels are stellar, my “bmi” is perfect (although I personally would like to lose about 5 pounds,) I don’t eat as much food or as many meals as most people, and I’m good. For me. A lot of people would probably be unhappy with my diet.

My husband considers all of the things I listed as a “snack” because, you know, that’s not what a “real meal” consists of. Doesn’t matter if it makes it so you’re not hungry. It’s not a “meal.” So he’ll eat the nuggets or the cookies or whatever, then eat a whole meal an hour later. I wouldn’t even be hungry an hour later.

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