ROCKVILLE, MD.—Eating trends are changing, according to a new study released by market research firm Packaged Facts. In addition to how and what people eat, when they eat has become an increasingly important consideration.

The study found that mealtime patterns have deviated from the ”three square meals” tradition. The importance of breakfast over lunch and dinner, another longstanding tradition, also has become more hotly contested. The trends toward snacking between meals and eating several smaller meals throughout the day have further muddied mealtime management, according to the report. 

"There's a surging fluidity to modern mealtimes," said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. "The reality is U.S. adults are increasingly eating differently, if not necessarily eating less."

Most people still consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day compared to lunch or dinner, according to survey data published in the report. The percentage of people considering breakfast to be the most important decreased throughout the last 10 years, while lunch and dinner gained priority.

The percentage of adults who eat several smaller meals throughout the day increased between 2008 and 2018. Essential and increasingly influential consumer demographics, including Hispanics, African Americans and women showed a greater-than-average likelihood of eating several smaller meals daily.

The report also found a modest but marked trend toward eating later in the day, led by Asian Americans and adults ages 18 to 35. Since 2008, the percentage of adults who eat breakfast before 9 a.m., lunch before 1 p.m. and dinner before 8 p.m. has dropped, and younger adults were found to be disproportionately more likely to eat dinner later in the evenings. FBN