Snacking between meals has become a way of life. According to a survey commissioned by Continental Baking Co., 86 percent of Americans admit to snacking.

Snack sales last year totaled more than $13.6 billion, and projections are that this figure will increase by at least another billion by 1993.Peak snacking time is the late evening, when 30 percent of the snackers indulge. The greatest number of morning snackers can be found in the South (14 percent), while afternoon snackers dominate in the West (35 percent). However, 63 percent say they snack at least twice a day.

Half of the men and women who snack see themselves as Happy Snackers; 7 percent list themselves as Wacky Snackers who crave odd foods; 3 percent are Sneaky Snackers who hide their nibbling. Nearly one-third describe themselves as TV Snackers, combining one favorite nationals pastime with another.

While many people consider snacking a pleasure, one in three feel guilty about it (and twice as many women than men feel guilt). In fact, 11 percent of those surveyed said they felt more guilty about snacking than cheating on their taxes.

However, there may be encouraging news for these guilt-ridden snackers. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto and cited in The Lempert Report, found that smaller, more frequent meals and snacks may prove more healthful than the regular three-meal-a-day schedule we have all been reared on.

Apparently, smaller, more frequent meals are healthier than larger meals spaced further apart. However, these snacks must be healthy and not too high in calories. They also have to be replacements for meals, not supplements to them.

The quest for healthy snacks, however, points to another interesting trend in occurring in the snack field, says Lempert - the case of granola and dried fruit snacks.

When items like granola bars first came out, they attracted a number of new customers looking for healthy alternatives to the traditional heavily salted, heavily sweetened snacks. The problem was that these original snacks were just a little too heavy on health and a little light on taste. So manufacturers began adding things like chocolate, marshmallow and many disguised forms of fat, hoping to attract more young eaters.

But eventually parents did get around to reading the ingredient labels on these "healthy treats" - and many apparently didn't like what they saw. Granola snack sales have plummeted over the past few years - going from a high of $439 million in 1985 to $280 million in 1988.

The same thing happened with dried fruit snacks. Manufacturers have made their bite-size fruit drops in almost every imaginable shape and have coated them with yogurt and chocolate. But after enjoying a 16 percent dollar increase in 1987, sales slipped by 1.9 percent in 1988.

The message here, says Lempert, is that there will always be consumers who are looking for delicious, indulgent snacks and choose to ignore calorie, sugar and fat content. But there also also those consumers who are sincerely interested in healthy snacks that limit the use of such contents. And many companies are finding it is a dangerous precedent to advertise their product as being something it is not - healthy.

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The snack food market

Candy 29.1%

Cookies/crackers 22.9%

Potato chips 11.2%

Corn/tortilla chips 5.9%

Snack cakes/pies 5.3%

Snack nut meats 3.9%

Frozen pizza 3.7%

Popcorn 3.7%

Others 14.3%

Source: The Lempert Report/Snack Food

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Check your credit

With more than 240 million individual crredit files stored in computers around the country, the potential for misuse, abuse and outright fraud in dealing with credit files is alarmingly high, says the National Center for Financial Education (NCFE). The non-profit educational organization points out that increasing problems in this area have led to credit-reporting legislation in 28 states. Three bills are also pending before Congress.

In connection with those bills, congressional testimony indicates that about a third of the people who look into their credit files report finding information they think isn't complete, accurate or current. More than 9 million people looked at their credit reports last year, and about 3 million requested changes. Changes, updates and corrections were made in about 2.25 million files.

Chances are, says the NCFE, that each adult has at least two credit files in his or her name. Active credit users may have as many as five or six. And, the organization points out, each file does not necessarily contain the same or all credit and debt repayment history. It is important to locate each credit file in your name and review it annually for errors and omissions. These credit files could be doing something to you instead of doing something for you. Errors could preclude you from obtaining needed credit in the future.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act establishes procedures for consumers to obtain credit files and to make inquiries, changes and additions. There is no need for a specialist, or so-called credit doctor or credit repair firm.

It is also important for consumers to know, says the NCFE, that there is no guarantee that negative information can be removed from credit files. So, don't fall for any sales pitch guaranteeing removal. Negative items improperly removed by credit repair firms often reappear on the credit report in five or six months.

To obtain a copy of your credit report, locate the credit reporting agencies in the yellow pages and call for instructions about how to get a copy of your file.

The NCFE also has a Do-It-Yourself Credit Repair and Improvement Guide that has step-by-step instructions for locating, obtaining and making changes on credit reports. Sample letters are included that can help smooth communications with credit agencies. The kit is available for $10 from the National Center for Financial Education, P.O. Box 34070, San Diego, CA 92103. The kit comes with a full, money-back offer.

When it comes to credit, irresponsible use can also lead to problems, points out the Consumer Credit Institute, the consumer education arm of American Financial Services Association.

Consumers in the United States had more than $729 billion in consumer installment credit outstanding at the end of July 1990 - up 7.4 percent from June. While many people who use credit handle their debts responsibly, says the institute, others find that when their bills roll in, they have trouble making their payments on time.

Here are some warning signs to help you determine if your credit situation is getting out of control:

- Not knowing how much you owe until the bills arrive.

- Making only minimum payments on large credit card bills.

- Juggling bill payments each month.

- Using your line of credit on your checking account or credit card for regular expenses like food or rent.

- Going over your credit limit on your credit cards.

- Working overtime just to keep up with your bills.

- Being denied credit because your credit bureau report shows either negative information or an overextension of credit.

- Getting a credit card revoked by the issuer.

If you recognize a few of these signals, draw up a budget and stick to it. If almost all of these signals sound familiar, you should consider getting profession help from a non-profit consumer credit counseling service.

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Grandparents fill a special niche in the family.

Grandparents fill a special niche in the family. They provide an important link with the past and bring perspective to the present. They provide guidance and direction, based on years of personal experience. They often lend a hand with child care and usually relate to children in different ways than parents.

Approximately 35 percent of the population is grandparent-aged. Although it is a role that many look forward to with anticipation and pride, there is little or no formal training for grandparenting and some grandparents are unsure of what their role should be, says Glen Jenson, family specialist with the USU Extension Service.

Research indicates that grandparents fall into five basic categories, says Jenson:

1. The Formal Grandparent.

These are grandparents who adopt a hands-off policy. They provide little substitute child care for the parents of their children. They show much interest, but only from a distance. About 31 percent of grandmothers and 33 percent of grandfathers fall into this category.

2. The Fun-seeker Grandparent.

These are informal and playful with their grandchildren. They participate in lots of activity with their grandchildren and report high levels of enjoyment from association with them. About 29 percent of grandmothers and 24 percent of grandfathers fit this description.

3. Surrogate-type Grandparent.

The major role involves caring for the children while the parents are employed or performing other activities. About 14 percent of grandmothers and very few grandfathers fill this role.

4. Reservoir of Family Wisdom.

These grandparents are authoritarian in their relationship with their grandchildren and married children. They serve the purpose of dispensing special skills and resources. One percent of grandmothers and 3 percent of grandfathers fit this description.

5. The Distant Figure Grandparent.

This type of grandparent comes out of the shadows on birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions. Contact with grandchildren is fleeting and infrequent. About 19 percent of grandmothers and 29 percent of grandfathers can be described as distant figures.

The lines between the categories may blur a bit, says Jenson. But most people can identify a category they seem to fit in. However, he adds, if you don't like that category, you don't necessarily have to stay there. It is never too late to change.

"The ideal grandparent is probably a combination of the fun-seeker, the reservoir of wisdom and the surrogate. He or she gets involved with the family, shares stories and skills, is available to talk and be with the child."

Grandparents get into difficulty if they expend all their energy being surrogate parents, he says. "They need some time just to have fun."

Grandparental involvement is important for today's family. "We're finding more and more than neat, wonderful parents can have a hard time raising children. Kids have so many choices, face so many outside pressures from society, from drugs.

"Grandparents can often provide another voice, can say and do things to help turn kids around, while parents may have a hard time reaching their youngsters."

Studies have shown that grandparents have the hardest time relating to children when the children are between the ages of 8 and 19. And that's when parents often need the most help. Grandparents may need to make a concerted effort to get involved with the child - go fishing, shopping, ask for advice.

This is the time, perhaps, to make an effort to move more into the fun-seeking mode, says Jenson.

Today's grandparents tend to be younger, have more resources, more energy. It can be an exciting time of life.