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The decline of the American Meal and the concurrent rise of snacking has been evident for several years now. It seems our accelerated lives have made finding time to actually sit down and eat something like a full breakfast downright whimsical.

dinner-table_sm.jpgRecent studies back this up. According to "Snacking in America 2008," the new report out by the NPD Group, snack foods are being consumed as accompaniments, or even substitutes for something else, during meal times. Indeed, the study found that 21% of meals eaten today are snacks.

I found that tidbit interesting. The devoted snackers I know, who have departed the breakfast-lunch-dinner way of life, say snacking holds several benefits: It prevents them from overindulging during formal meal times; it allows them to consume a wider variety of foods than they would normally; and it helps them maintain energy levels better than three conventional sit-downs.

All of these are valid reasons, and I'm struck by the element of healthful intent (for lack of a better word) contained in each of them. But as a dietitian from Hy-Vee told me not too long ago, when I was visiting the chain, "It's easy to overlook that simply getting people back to the dinner table is a healthy thing to do."

For now, I'm going to hang onto my table manners.

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