Sizing up Teen Snacking
By Rosalie Marion
May 9, 2008
The effect of snacking on teenagers'
dietary intakes of recommended nutrients and
MyPyramid food groups has been
examined, and the findings are both positive and negative. After analyzing the
eating habits of more than 4,000 teenagers surveyed nationwide, Agricultural
Research Service (ARS) scientists found
that 90 percent reported eating one or more snacks in a day.
The study was led by nutritionist
Sebastian with the ARS
Human Nutrition Research Center at Beltsville, Md. The study has been
published online and also appears in the May print issue of the Journal of
Adolescent Health. ARS is the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
The 12- to 19-year-old teenagerswho were selected to be representative
of the U.S. populationreported everything they had eaten during a 24-hour
time period while participating in the survey
What We Eat in
America/NHANES 2001-2004. Overall, snacking was found to enhance the intake
of some MyPyramid food groups, but it also contributed to the intake of excess
discretionary calories as added sugars and fats.
Among the highest snackersthose who consumed four or more snacks in a
dayboth boys and girls ate more than twice as much fruit as their
non-snacking peers. Even so, almost three-quarters of those relatively high
fruit eaters failed to meet their MyPyramid recommendation to consume 1½
cups to 2½ cups of fruit daily, depending on age, gender and activity
On the positive side, boys who snacked more often were significantly more
likely than nonsnacking boys to meet the MyPyramid milk recommendation, which
is to consume three cups daily for both boys and girls. High-snacking girls,
however, were not more likely to meet the milk recommendation compared to
Among all of the teenagers surveyed, snack foods on average accounted for 43
percent of the day's total intake of added sugars, which they consumed mostly
as soft drinks, fruit drinks, candies, dairy desserts and cakes. The
researchers concluded that replacing those snacks with more nutritious foods
and beverages would help teenagers consume diets more in step with national