Survey: Three-quarters of Americans no longer eat 3 meals a day

NEW YORK — Many people find themselves simply too swamped to take lunch breaks these days, but it seems they may prefer it that way. A new study finds that about three-quarters of Americans no longer eat the traditional three meals a day. Instead, the average person consumes two meals and noshes on snacks three times daily.

The survey of 2,000 adults, commissioned by frozen food company Farm Rich, revealed that unconventional work schedules and the desire for more food variety overall during the day are leading more Americans to opt for more “snack meals” to supplement their diets. Just 27 percent of respondents enjoy a true breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, the survey showed.

Respondents indicated that impatience with extensive meal prep time and cooking, busy schedules, and health factors were the most common reasons why they didn’t stick to the traditional meal schedule. In fact, 86 percent said they replaced at least one meal with a snack meal instead. Lunch was most likely among the three to be swapped for snacking.

“People are no longer feeling bound to the traditional three meals a day, which gives them more variety and time back to do the things they enjoy most, and for many, that doesn’t involve a ton of time in the kitchen, especially on busy days,” says Shannon Gilreath, Director of Marketing at Farm Rich, in a statement. “The growth of digital streaming and desire for quick foods that fuel us have led to an increase in snack consumption, especially at home.”

Age may play a role in the shift. Millennials were most likely to agree with the notion that “three meals a day are a thing of past.” The younger segment was found to replace meals for snacking at least six times a week, and tended to eat more snacks while on the go (on the bus, train, at work, etc.). One in five millennials admits they even snack while running common errands.

“Snacking gives flexibility to busy families and individuals with untraditional schedules,” Gilreath said. “This shift towards enjoying an all-snack meal or snacks on the go, speaks to changing lifestyles, and the grocery freezer is a great resource for foods that offer the ease, long shelf life, variety and sustenance people sometimes need.”

Millennials also view snacks as a way to boost energy, with 40 percent believing the smaller meals gives them needed fuel during the day. Interestingly, only 20 percent of baby boomers find snacking refuels them. Instead, the 55 and over group turn to snacks as a way to curb cravings.

The peak “snacking hours,” according to the survey, were between 1 and 4 p.m.

About a third of the respondents said they purchase frozen meals at least once a week, according to Gilreath, perhaps shedding light on the growth of frozen food sales over the past year.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll between July 23 and August 3, 2018.

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