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For Gen Z and Millennials, Snacks Are a Valid Meal—Here’s Why

We explain why Gen Z and Millennials love to have snacks throughout the day, and exactly which ones they choose… 


  • The vast majority of both Gen Z and Millennials snack on an average day, but Gen Z are more likely to say so
  • These gens eat what they want, when they want it, which makes snacking the perfect way to feel fulfilled by food
  • Though their top snack choices aren’t so “healthy,” online trends reveal a commitment to nourishing both their body and mind with snacks

YPulse’s Cooking and Diets report shows that Gen Z and Millennials do not believe in having a strict diet plan. Instead, these generations are focused on eating what makes them happy whenever they’re hungry, rather than limiting and scheduling meals. So, when we ask what meals or snacks are part of a typical weekday for them, we find that the vast majority of young people are adding snacks in throughout their day. And their social media presence reveals a unique way of snacking that shows their generations’ ability to make balanced, tasty, and non-restrictive meals of their snacks all at once.  

But before we dive further into what drives their snacking habits, and exactly what they’re snacking on day-to-day, we ask 13-39-year-olds if snacks are a part of their typical weekday meals, and at which times of day, and these are their responses:  

Gen Z are more likely to be snacking all day than Millennials 

The vast majority of both Gen Z and Millennials are adding in snacks throughout their day, but Gen Z are +7pts more likely to say snacks are a part of their average weekday diet (84%) than Millennials (77%). Our data shows that Gen Z are more likely than Millennials to say “I don’t have a set time for when I eat, I just eat when I am hungry” (46% vs. 37%) and “I don’t plan what I eat, I just eat what I feel like in the moment,” (38% vs. 30%) are true statements for them.  

In addition to satisfying their cravings as they happen, other research shows there’s several reasons young adults specifically enjoy adding snacks into their days. According to Mondelez International’s 2019 “State of Snacking” report, “Three out of four adults around the world say snacking gives them an essential break to their busy days and 71% say snacking gives them time to connect with themselves.” Where previous generations may have taken a smoke break or two, Gen Z and Millennials are more interested in something like a Diet Coke break for a mid-day refresh.   

The gens are near equally likely, though, to say three set meals are a part of their typical weekday, so it’s not that Gen Z are eating fewer complete meals that they’re supplementing with snacks, but it’s likely other factors driving this part of their routine… 

More than half of Gen Z have an afternoon snack 

Of the different times of day they typically snack, more than half of Gen Z (57%) say an afternoon snack is a part of their typical weekday diet, as compared to 44% of Millennials who say so. There are several potential reasons this is the case, one of which being the different kinds of lunches these gens eat. The two most common foods Gen Z say they eat for lunch on a typical weekday are pizza (52%) and sandwiches (48%). Millennials, on the other hand, are significantly more likely to choose more protein and carb heavy options like chicken, rice, and even leftovers (which may come from bigger dinners). In this way, Gen Z is likely looking for more sustenance after their lunch.  

Either way, they’re adding something in between lunch and dinner, and we even ask which snacks exactly they choose on a typical weekday: 

Their top snacks may not be health-forward, but online trends prove they’re looking for satisfaction  

The top snack Gen Z and Millennials eat on a typical weekday is potato chips, and candy / sweets, cookies, fruit, and popcorn make both gen’s top five. In pattern with their focus on eating what they want, when they want it, these typical go-to snacks are not all the healthiest options out there. But YPulse data shows for young consumers, food is about feeling fulfilled—and eating something delicious—more than it is about meeting traditional standards of what is “healthy,” which is why 73% agree “Somebody can work out and eat junk food in one day, both for their wellness.”  

However, amongst their list of typical snacks, you’ll find several are actually quite fulfilling nutritionally—when put together. And a recent online trend shows that Millennials specifically do just that with their snacks: dubbed “rat snacks” on TikTok, young people are showing how they put together a snack plate that meets all their needs, even if the combination seems unappealing. For instance, they might pull together a veggie and pickle platter paired with sour candy—sounds odd, but it’s quick and satisfies cravings for both sweet and salty snacks.  

YPulse’s The End of Foodie Culture (As We Know It) trend report dives further into how brands can engage young consumers through food content—and staying on top of trends like these is one prime way. Whether it’s contributing their own unconventional snack and recipe combos to the conversation or sharing iterations of viral food (think butter boards), brands can connect with these unique foodies with more than just straightforward snack products.