“Eating Between Meals”


One of the oft mentioned suggestions from health professionals is to avoid eating between meals to maintain a healthy weight. They say to pay particular attention to “snacking.” I started reflecting on this activity and wondered if it was just my imagination and faulty memory that led me to think this had not been an issue in my childhood. It turns out that my thinking was fine. Even between the 1970’s(when my children were young) and today, children in the United States have gone from two snacks a day to an average of six snacks a day.

We had no snack food in our home unless there were crackers left over from an adult party. We had cookies, but they were for our lunches, not for eating whenever we felt like it. In fact we understood, as did many Americans in the 1950’s, that food was consumed three times a day. That, combined with our very active childhood lives, probably explains the lack of concern about “childhood obesity,” a topic now much in the news.

I don’t know if it is possible to get the snack horse back in the barn now that it has run free through American lives. Somehow we seem to have acquired, in a land of plenty for many, a fear of being hungry. The first pang of hunger sounds a danger signal, apparently, and we must reach for a snack. There are genuinely hungry Americans who lack access to healthy food. But there are also plenty of overfed, underexercised kids in this country. And that is a change for the worse.

27 thoughts on ““Eating Between Meals”

  1. I think sometimes that we don’t allow ourselves to get hungry. I have tried to pace myself, and actually feel better when I allow hunger to happen. It’s a kind of awareness that I will be OK; I won’t starve. I find I am more appreciative of food in general and am more thankful when I think about farmers, nutrition, and those who are more–or less–fortunate. When I allow myself to get hungry before I eat my next meal, I tend to eat better.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am part of a focus group for a major retailer, and it seems that the only research they are doing is to provide more “ready made” meals and foods for people. I think that growing, preparing and cooking your own foods does a lot to lead to conscious eating.

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  3. You’re right, I know many people who worry a lot about getting enough food. I once read that people who live the longest are just a little bit hungry. I often think of this when it comes to discussions on snacking or even meal planning. In this vein, I’ve had to remind my own kids at times that I don’t remember them ever missing a meal. That’s a tragedy that just never occurred. But maybe it should have 🙂

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  4. Like you, snacking was unknown until I was much older. We did have cookies, (which we call biscuits) but they were treats, and never to be eaten between meals. My Mum worked in the accounts office of the nearby biscuit factory for some time, and could buy broken biscuits in the staff shop, for just pennies. One night a week, usually Friday, my Mum would also return from work with chocolate bars and sweets. (Candy) These would be shared around with my parents after dinner, as something special. The only real ‘snack’ we had was home-made cake, often served around 4 in the afternoon, when I got home from school. There was always one type of cake or another in a tin in the house.

    As for proprietary snack foods, there were just basic plain crisps around then, (chips) which would only ever be seen on social occasions, or at family gatherings. We would be allowed one small packet each, and that was that.

    But the main issue in our diet was the amount of sugar and fat added to everyday foodstuffs and cooking. Potatoes roasted in lard. Dumplings and suet puddings served regularly with meals, and lots of high-sugar jam on toast or bread. Even vegetables like carrots were boiled in water that had sugar added to it. Many of the ‘unseen’ reasons why I had weight issues in my teens.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write this expansive response. I am fascinated by eating trends over time. I had no idea about the sugar and fat added to ordinary meals. That sounds more like the diet in the south of our country. Especially lard.

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      1. I always enjoy your posts, Elizabeth, and I am happy to hear that you don’t find my long responses too boring. 🙂
        As well as Lard, Beef Dripping was a favourite fat to use for frying! My Mum continued to use it until she died, in 2012. 🙂

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  5. Valid points. But, not many can afford healthy foods. At the same time, many do not know -how to eat, how much to eat and what to eat. There is an imbalance.

    I have introduced various fruits, nuts, and legumes and other healthy food options to my daughter who is 4yrs old. We do not eat junk foods at all. For snacks, I give her various nuts.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I stumbled across your post looking for information on what it was like for other kids growing up in 60s and 70s in the US, regarding snacking. In my family, the children were not allowed to open the refrigerator unless it was to fetch an adult another beer. Getting caught with the fridge door open, and especially getting caught with food between meals, meant you were in big trouble. As an adult, it seems weird that that was the case in my family, but I think that was the general consensus back then. I’d be interested in hearing about other people’s snacking experiences as children growing up in the 60s – 70s. I don’t know whether my family was especially punitive about it, or not.

    We had a St.Bernard and I remember eating chunks of dry dog-food pulled from the enormous dog-food bag because I was hungry (and the dog-food wouldn’t be missed). Or maybe I was already trying to self-soothe, I don’t know.

    By the way, I love the title of your blog — it’s perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you found my blog. I will check out yours. It sounds like your experience was both family and culturally shaped. We never ate between meals, but neither did most of my friends. I don’t know who those kids were that came home from school to a glass of milk and cookies. We didn’t snack as a family at all. Meals were meals. We didn’t feel deprived in that way. Sadly my mother never cooked enough(her issues) and so in retrospect I was hungry quite often. So the dog food question is probably a little of both.


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