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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 11:48 GMT
The joys of snacking
Boredom and stress are helping to drive up sales of expensive snacks and smoothies, according to a report. For the new Readers' Column, which replaces Pete Clifton's Editor's Column, Imogen Hitchcock extols the joys of snacking.

It's true, I have to admit, I've a little bit of a weakness for crisps. The flavour depends on my mood, when I'm hungover it has to be salt and vinegar; fluey - Twiglets; depressed - prawn cocktail (maybe it's the bright pink packet that does it?)

As an everyday crisp I would probably have good ol' Walkers. Pringles are really my hangover crisp, but I'd probably share them. I'd feel horribly fat if I ate a whole pack on my own. It could be done though. Suppose it just depends on the quantity of alcohol consumed the night before.

Since leaving university I suffer far fewer hangovers - normally they're over a weekend. When the fateful morning arrives I have my little regime which makes me feel better.

I struggle out of bed to trudge to the petrol station. My shopping list is always the same: Fanta Lemon (oh what sugary goodness), packet of bacon (for the inevitable bacon sandwich), salt and vinegar crisps (see above), newspapers (the trashier the better). I will normally, and somewhat bizarrely, also pick up a Peperami.

Normally I restrict the amount of rubbish I eat - men can eat the most extraordinary amounts and still stay thin
Imogen Hitchcock

As strange a menu as it might sound, honestly, after much practice, I can say that it is the best cure going.

On a normal day, I restrict the amount of rubbish I eat. I think all girls do. What I don't understand, and what really annoys me, is that men can eat the most extraordinary amounts of rubbish and yet still stay thin. Where does it all go?

If I ate as much as some of my friends I would a) turn into a complete heifer and b) feel a little bit guilty. Snacking is ok if it's once in a while but I think most women would agree that it's something we do when we're not feeling our greatest.

The problem comes when I'm bored or stressed. Comfort eating. It's a sin but it is just so right.

Nothing else to do? Why not eat a bar of chocolate. Fruit doesn't have the same effect I'm afraid. It has to be sweet and it has to be fattening. Oh, and it can't be that organic, low fat, no salt stuff. If I am eating snacks I want them to be bad for me.

Posh tosh

Bad day at work? A packet of pretzels and a glass of wine will sort you out. There's something so comforting about settling down and doing what you know you shouldn't... but not caring.

1bn was spent on high-quality snacks & drinks in 2004
Premium brands are no longer reserved for special occasions
More than half of consumers agree that "higher quality snacks are more emotionally comforting than standard offerings"
Source: Datamonitor
I'm not sure what I feel about the claim in a new report that posh snacking is more "emotionally comforting". What does that mean? Do you have to dress up in black tie and eat your premium snacks out of Wedgwood china?

What companies actually mean by "posh", "luxury" and "premium" foods is expensive. You're looking at 1.90 for the tiniest bottle of squashed fruit and you can make your own for a quarter of the price (and it probably tastes better).

These specialist brands taste the same as the cheaper ones, but cost the earth. You are not buying for quality, you are buying the brand and the lifestyle (much like with designer clothes which I am also quite cynical about). They don't make the guilty pleasure any better, except for the thought that you spent a fortune on a mere label.

I can think of a much better way to spend my 1.90. I think it involves gin.

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