More Americans Are Treating Themselves to ‘Second Breakfast’

Whether it's for convenience or health reasons, those Hobbits may have had it right all along.

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Waffles? French toast? Bacon? Big breakfasts may be a thing of the past. According to the Associated Press, more Americans are consuming breakfast in stages thanks to on-the-go lifestyles and the belief that multiple, smaller meals are healthier than three large ones.

“They’ll eat something at home, then stop at Starbucks or a convenience store for coffee and maybe a little snack,” Liz Sloan, president of food industry consulting group Sloan Trends, told the AP.

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Serial eating is only expected to increase in the coming years. The NPD Group, a market research company, estimates that the number of times people will snack in the mornings will increase 23% between 2008 and 2018, compared with 20% and 15% increases in afternoon and evening snacking, respectively.

From a year ago, total snack food revenues increased 3.3%, reaching $16.64 billion, according to Nielsen. In response, large food companies such as General Mills, Quaker Oats and Sara Lee have beefed up their lines of bars, yogurts and mini-breakfast sandwiches.

Unlike their evening alter-egos, morning snackers tend to be more health conscious, looking for low-calorie foods with more fiber, antioxidants and whole grains. For instance, General Mills introduced its 140-calorie Fiber One bars in 2007, but recently added three more flavors as well as 90-calorie versions.

This may be new in the U.S., but second breakfast is a staple in countries such Germany, Fodor’s reports. In Bavaria, a traditional Zweites Fruehstueck consists of white sausages, pretzels, sweet mustard and, of course, beer.

But snackers, beware: Though spreading calories across several meals is generally accepted to be healthier, it can actually cause people to over-consume and gain weight, David Levitsky, a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University, told the AP.

Maybe the trend toward portable, quick-hit breakfasts will inspire more people to eat in the morning. According to the Huffington Post, a 2011 survey by theNPD Group found that 10 percent of the U.S. population, or 31 million Americans, skip the most important meal of the day.

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