29 Mar 2024

No thanks to traditional meals, say Gen Z

9:56 am on 29 March 2024
A snack collage

Photo: Samuel Robinson

Long gone are the days where snacks simply bridged the gap between meals - a new study reveals New Zealand's Gen Z is ditching breakfast, lunch and dinner in favour of snacking throughout the day.

According to a report commissioned by global snack giant Mondelez, 40 percent of Gen Z (people aged 26 and under) skip breakfast in favour of a snack, while almost half prefer a late-night snack to actual dinner.

The local findings reflect international trends, like the TikTok 'girl dinner' phenomenon or 'treating yourself' to something for completing a basic task.

Girl Dinner

A sample of 'girl dinners' on TikTok. Photo: Screenshot

Craig Dowling of Mondelez New Zealand, whose snack brands include Cadbury, Pascall, Toblerone and The Natural Confectionery Company, says it might be because they have a lot on their plate.

"The younger generation is working multiple jobs, juggling university and their studies and trying to get ahead, so life is really busy, and I suspect that's a factor influencing snacking versus traditional meal times," Dowling says.

"Maybe the younger generation are listening to those own personal signals about when hunger hits, to then address it, rather than fit into society's structured times to do that.

"Humans, before organised, structured work environments, ate when they could - when they were successful on the hunt or they found a tree with apples on it. That all changed in the Victorian era as structure came into things. That is now breaking down and younger generations are quick adopters of that change."

Nutritionist and founder of Foodcom Julie North agrees snacking is the new reality for many people. She says it is fine to do - so long as you snack wisely.

"If you're having little bits often throughout the day, you still need to think about, are these snacks offering me good nutrition that my body needs? Meats, oily fish, lots of vegetables - those sorts of foods can be hard to get when you're snacking.

Hummus salad

Snackers need to be mindful of getting adequate nutrition says nutritionist Julie North. Photo: supplied

"If we can encourage people who are snacking to get into that mindset of, 'okay, I'm gonna snack wisely now', then I think we can snack quite well."

North says there are several things snackers should be looking out for to fulfil their daily nutritional needs.

"The nutrients we would be concerned about, if someone's snacking more than they're eating meals, would be iron, calcium and possibly zinc. Those tend to be the ones that are hard, particularly for adolescent and early 20s girls, to make sure they're getting enough in their diet.

"Having serves of dairy, some slices of cheese, yogurt, even a glass of milk, or a smoothie made of milk or yogurt and a piece of fruit is fantastic. Iron is something to be mindful of - red meat is a great choice. If snacking, I'd be looking for sushi with some roast beef or salmon, or tuna, and add in some edamame beans to snack on for that extra goodness."

North says protein and fibre-rich foods are also key. Well-rounded snacking options could include vegetable or legume-based dips, like hummus with carrot sticks and some cheese, while corn chips would be a more fibrous option than most crackers or potato chips.

For store-bought snacking, North says health star ratings are a good guide.

"Choosing grab-and-go snacks does require a little more care and thought, because you could be consuming quite a bit of energy and not enough of the nutrients we actually need.

"That's something to be careful with snacking, but we want people to enjoy food. It's fun, it's nice to have lots of snacks around, but just being able to choose wisely and have a variety of them. If you're getting 80 percent of what you're eating right, don't panic too much about the other 20."

Close up of three adult sisters snacking from cheese board (Photo by Deborah Kolb / Image Source / Image Source via AFP)

Snacking is about more than food. Photo: DEBORAH KOLB

The survey identified Gen Z as 'social snackers' - snacking for social and emotional health rather than physical wellbeing.

"They see the sharing of a snack as an important way to connect," Dowling says.

"Snacking in a way is a little bit of a bridge: people will have a short, brief snack and socialise face-to-face and that's a powerful opportunity that comes with this trend.

"You're breaking bread, you're not breaking a giant roast, it's a very easy thing to do."

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