Despite the surging snacking trend, US consumers are holding to the traditional mindset of eating three meals a day. 
CHICAGO – Americans are snacking more than ever, but the graze craze hasn’t overturned the traditional three-meals-a-day mentality, according to the NPD Group.

The concept of eating three main meals is primarily culturally based, NPD said, since societal norms in the US tend to revolve around mealtimes. For example, Americans typically go to work or school after breakfast, take a break for lunch and aim to be home by dinner. Parents instill this routine in their children from a young age, NPD said, and busy consumers who sometimes skip meals still try to maintain the practice they learned as children.

While consumers are sticking to the main meal trio, the type of foods they are eating at these meals is shifting. Consumers are increasingly incorporating “healthy” portable snack foods into their breakfasts, lunches and dinners, NPD said, resulting in a decline in the number of dishes and ingredients used to prepare main meals.

Consumers are incorporating "healthy" portable snack foods into their meals. 
Although Americans are relying on more snack foods to make up their main meals and those meal sizes are shrinking, the perception that snacking is replacing mealtimes is misconstrued, NPD said. Between-meal snacking accounts for about a third of all eating occasions, but these mini-meals are not adding new or additional occasions to the day, NPD said.
 Darren Seifer, The NPD Group
Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst 

“There is a lot of buzz about snacking these days,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for the NPD Group and author of Snacking in America. “One headline could talk about how snacking is up, and another might say we graze throughout the day instead of eating a main meal. While those headlines are eye-grabbing and give people something to talk about, it’s important to read past them and dig into the details. The opportunities are uncovered by the details and not the headlines.”