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Dietitian E-News: Shifts in Snacking

Back in March 2020 when the pandemic began, where, what and how consumers ate quickly changed - including their snacking habits.


According to the IFIC 2020 Food & Health Survey of 1,014 American ages 18-80, 33% reported snacking more. Fast forward to 2021, and the number saying they are snacking more has decreased to 18%1, indicating that food habits that spiked in 2020 seem to be easing back to normal in 2021. Still, snacking is ingrained in the way most consumers eat: 58% report that they snack at least once a day.  

Source: IFIC 2021 Food & Health Survey

Source: IFIC 2021 Food & Health Survey

Hunger or thirst, viewing snacks as a treat, and wanting sweet or salty tastes top the list for resaons why consumers in this survey snack.

The survey also showed that late afternoon (3 p.m.-5 p.m.) and late evening (8 p.m.-11 p.m.) are the most popular snack times, with nearly half of respondents saying that’s when they reach for snacks.  

Previous research from the Almond Board indicates that more mindful and functional snacking occasions tend to happen earlier in the day, while less functional, emotional snacking occasions start happening at lunch and often continue late into the evening.

Recognizing current consumer snacking trends and how making healthy snack choices may change as the day progresses for your patients and clients can help you set them up for snacking success. Instead of snacking on a whim, encourage your clients to plan ahead to help them keep snacking in the healthy zone. Nuts such as almonds, fruits and veggies, low fat yogurt and cheese, whole grain crackers and breads are examples of foods that are smart snacking choices.

Check out our recipe center for delicious almond snack options and read on for one of our favorite picks below. You’ll find our handouts on building a better snack and healthy snacking ideal for sharing in counseling sessions. And take a look at the summary below of a study from the University of Florida that examined diet quality scores among parents and children who ate almonds or almond butter as a regular snack.

RECIPE: Almond Butter Fuel-Up Bites

This snack recipe is a perfect way to fuel up on the go, for adults and kids alike! For more delicious recipes, visit our Recipe Center.


Sample Post:  So super-delish! The plant-based 6g of protein and 5g of fiber in every bite will help you to fuel up fast with this ultimate no-bake snack.

RESEARCH UPDATE: Almonds’ Impact on Overall Family Diet Quality

Encouraging kids to eat a healthy diet is a challenge for most parents, but a study from the University of Florida2 shows that almonds may be one easy trick to boost diet quality – in kids and parents alike. Adding a moderate amount of almonds to the family diet (1.5 ounces/day of whole almonds or almond butter for parents, 0.5 ounces/day for children) significantly improved overall diet quality in study participants and showed some detectable changes in in intestinal microbiota, particularly in children.

The health benefits of almonds have been well-established and reflected in science-based dietary guidance to consume nuts regularly as part of a healthy dietary pattern, but this is the first study of its kind to investigate the effects of dietary change on digestive health and immune function in parent-child pairs. Knowing that almonds contain a combination of fiber, vitamin E, unsaturated fats and flavonoids, study authors wanted to explore the nuts’ impact on gut microbiota, which may in turn impact immunity, inflammation and general health.

The 14-week, randomized, controlled, crossover clinical was conducted in 29 healthy parent and child pairs. The majority of the parents were mothers (n=24) who were overweight and an average of 35 years old. The children were 15 boys and 14 girls who were an average of 4 years old. In the study, parents and children ate 1.5 and 0.5 ounces of almonds and/or almond butter, respectively, on a daily basis for three weeks, as part of their usual diet, followed by a 6-week washout period and another 3-week period of following the usual diet with no almonds. Adult participants completed daily questionnaires of compliance with nut intake and weekly dietary recalls on behalf of both themselves and their child.

When parents and children ate almonds, their overall diet quality improved, as measured by increased Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores, a standard measure of adherence to recommended dietary guidance. While at the beginning of the study, HEI scores for parents and children fell below U.S. national averages, almond consumption increased their scores to 61.4, well above national averages of 57.4 for adults 31-50 years and 54.9 for children 4-8 years). Parent and child HEI component scores increased for fatty acids, total protein, seafood and plant protein and decreased for fruit and empty calories. In addition, when eating almonds, participants also consumed significantly more vitamin E and magnesium, two nutrients commonly under-consumed by the majority of adults and children.

Although no specific changes in immune markers were observed, almond consumption did result in detectable changes in gut microbiota, which may have a variety of health benefits. Interestingly, although children consumed only one third of the amount of almonds compared to adults, microbiota was affected to a greater extent in their bodies. Higher intakes of almonds or a longer intervention may be needed to demonstrate modulation of microbiota and immune status.

While many commonly consumed snacks provide empty calories, almonds have a unique nutrient package that makes them a satisfying choice. A one-ounce serving of almonds provides 6 grams of plant-based protein, 4 grams of filling dietary fiber, 13 grams of good unsaturated fats (with just 1 gram of saturated fat) and important vitamins and minerals including vitamin E (50% DV), magnesium (20% DV) and potassium (6% DV) in every healthy handful.

1.  International Food Information Council. 2021 Food & Health Survey. 19 May 2021.

2. Burns AM, Zitt MA, Rowe CC, Langkamp-Henken B et al. Diet quality improves for parents and children when almonds are incorporated into their daily diet: a randomized, crossover study. Nutr Res. 2016; 36(1): 80-89.