Tracking snacking in real time: Time to look at individualised patterns of behaviour

Julia Allan* (Corresponding Author), David McMinn, Daniel Powell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Identifying when and where people overeat is important for intervention design, yet little is known about how unhealthy behaviours unfold in real life.
Aim: To track the activities, social contexts and locations that co-occur with unhealthy snacking.
Methods: 64 adults (49F, mean age= 38.6 years) used electronic diaries to record snacking, location, social context and current activity every waking hour over 7 days. The proportion of snacking episodes that co-occurred with each location/activity/context were calculated by group and individual.
Results: Over the group, snacking was most frequent whilst socialising (19.9% of hours spent socialising) or using the TV/computer (19.7%), when with friends (16.7%) and when at home (15.3%). All intra-class correlation statistics for cued behaviour were low, indicating the importance of within-person variability. There were marked individual differences between people in what constituted a ‘typical’ context for snacking.
Conclusions: People show substantial differences in the contexts in which they snack. Tailoring interventions to these individual patterns of behaviour may improve intervention efficacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-184
Number of pages6
JournalNutrition and Health
Issue number3
Early online date26 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

This study was funded by the Rural and Environmental Science and Analytical
Services Division, Scottish Government. JA is currently a Royal Society of Edinburgh
Sabbatical Grant holder.


  • snacking
  • overweight
  • obesity
  • context
  • individual differences
  • real time
  • Snacking


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