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Consume Report Insights

Recession Takes a Bite Out of Snacking

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009; 10:37 AM

Eighty-five percent of women admit to eating between meals, having an average of two snacks a day, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center's recent telephone survey of 1,003 women age 18 and older.

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Fifty-three percent of the respondents say snacking has either prevented them from losing weight or caused them to gain weight. However, 24 percent say it's helped them with their diets.

Fifteen percent of the women who eat between meals confessed that they hide snacks from their spouse, co-workers and friends. Chocolate is the most popular treat, favored by 24 percent of snackers. Chips and pretzels were second, at 19 percent. Women curb snack attacks by drinking water and other beverages (78 percent) and/or keeping busy (73 percent).

Activities that trigger snacking include going to the movies, shopping at the mall, feeling tired and stressed, going to a party, and zoning out in front of the TV. And the 25 percent of women who routinely skip breakfast are more likely than other women to snack in the middle of the night, down a big bag of chips in one sitting, and munch out in front of the TV when they are not hungry.

More than two-fifths (41 percent) of women who snack claim their snacking habits have been affected by the slowing economy. For the most part, this impact has been positive, with nearly a quarter (23 percent) snacking more healthfully -- although the survey did not ask for details about what the respondents considered more healthful -- and 17 percent snacking less often.

Thirty-five percent of the women surveyed said they rarely or never check nutrition labels on snacks. Yet it's possible to enjoy snacks that are both healthful and tasty, including ice cream, by making good choices.

For further guidance, go to ConsumerReportsHealth.org. More-detailed information -- including CR's ratings of prescription drugs, conditions, treatments, hospitals and healthy-living products -- is available to subscribers to that site.

Copyright 2009. Consumers Union of United States Inc.

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