How to snack smarter during screen time

The average American adult spends more than 11 hours per day on screens, according to Nielsen, and while they are watching TV, shopping on their laptop, and texting, they also mindlessly reaching for snacks. Now a new study says consumers under-report how much they eat while distracted by multitasking on several screens, but the surprising finding was that people actually under-report how much healthy foods they eat more than they under-report how much junk food they eat while zoned out. These researchers want to turn this into an advantage since Americans don't eat enough fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

The unlikely study results showed that not only did subjects underreport how much junk food they ate. But they also underreport how much healthy food they ate while distracted, including fruit, nuts, and vegetables. Now researchers want to use these findings to help people snack smarter while spending time on screens and encourage consumers to fill up on fruits, vegetables, and nuts (we would add seeds) when multitasking, according to a new report from researchers at Endicott College and Michigan State University.
"Doctors and nutritionists have long held that it's a bad idea to idly watch TV or pay attention to one's phone while eating unhealthy  snacks," said Anna McAlister, Ph.D., of the Gerrish School of Business at Endicott College in Beverly, MA. "But what if we start to encourage similar [snacking] habits, but substitute foods rich in nutrients? We could then tip the scales in favor of a healthy diet."

Not surprisingly, time spent on all kinds of screens increased in 2020, partially due to the pandemic and partially due to the resurgence of media multitasking, meaning more people are using phones, TVs, laptops while doing other activities or while using other screens, eMarketer reports.

"Our study investigated 'mindless' snacking with healthful and less healthful foods," said Anastasia Kononova, Ph.D., of Michigan State University. "The findings show that participants ate greater amounts of healthy foods than they realized when they were multitasking with screen devices. But this happened only when participants enjoyed the multitasking situation."

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