Beware that afternoon slump – it's prime time for snacking
MID-afternoon at home is when we are most likely to reach for a snack.
Four out of five Irish people still go to the kitchen press when they are seeking a treat despite the move to the busy 'grab and go' lifestyle, according to research.
We might be on the move more during the day with our hectic work and school schedules, but for those trying to shed pounds, home is where they need to be most on guard.
Some 78pc of snacking takes place in the house – mostly on multi-buy packs from the supermarket due to more cost-conscious shoppers, according to research on the nation's snacking habits from Bord Bia.
The younger generation, those aged between 10 and 15 years, are slightly more likely to splurge when out and about, at 26pc.
Paula Donoghue, brand manager with Bord Bia, said they had expected to find that more people were picking up snacks – such as sweets, chocolate, crisps or protein bars – while on the go but this was not the case.
"We are also eating a lot of lunches at home and if not we are bringing them with us," she said, pointing to the rise of the more thrifty shopper.
"We are eating more snacks at home and 72pc of these are bought at supermarkets. We are pre-planning our snack needs at home, such as six-packs of crisps."
One out of five tend to opt for sweets and chocolate, 15pc for crisps and 12pc for fruit, and 42pc favour having a snack with a drink such as biscuits with a cup of tea.
Yet the survey threw up some differences with our nearest neighbours in the UK as we tend to spend more on a snack at €2.13, compared with €1.90 in the UK.
The peak time for snacking is when the mid-afternoon slump takes hold between 3pm and 6pm.
Dietician Sarah Keogh warned that between 3.30pm and 4pm were crucial times; while watching television late in the evening was also 'danger' time.
"I think a lot of the time we don't need food, more often they are eating for energy or relaxation or comfort eating is a part of it."
The dietician pointed out that there were many reasons why a person became overweight, and snacking was just one of a multitude of factors.
"If we are hungry then a snack is no problem; but if we are not hungry then it is better to stay away from the snacks," she added. Ms Keogh, a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, advised choosing options to fuel the body such as nuts, dried fruit and yoghurt.
The survey – carried out by Coyne Research among more than 3,000 adults and a group of youths – also found 43pc of men only snack when they are hungry while 56pc of women opt for something extra to eat when they are feeling down.
Ms Donoghue said women tend to be more "calorie conscious" about snacks.
She also pointed out the intergenerational differences as the younger generation now tend towards "more constant grazing" and view it as a "boost", opting for more high-protein shakes and bars. However, those over 60 opt for three meals a day, and view a snack as a 'treat'.
"There is an opportunity there for more healthy, affordable snacks but they must be seen as affordable," she said.