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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effect of snacking frequency on adolescents' dietary intakes and meeting national recommendations

Authors
item Sebastian, Rhonda
item Cleveland, Linda
item Goldman, Joseph

Submitted to: Adolescent Health
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 4, 2007
Publication Date: February 2, 2008
Citation: Sebastian, R.S., Cleveland, L.E., Goldman, J.D. 2008. Effect of snacking frequency on adolescents' dietary intakes and meeting national recommendations. Journal of Adolescent Health. 42:503-511.

Interpretive Summary: Foods consumed at snacking occasions comprise a significantly larger proportion of adolescents' total dietary intake now than they did 25 years ago. Since dietary patterns established in childhood and adolescence are linked to present and future risk of chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, a determination of the impact of this change on dietary intakes was needed. Secondary analysis of data from the 2001-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys was conducted to identify characteristics of adolescents related to snacking frequency and to evaluate how snacking frequency by adolescents affected overall dietary intake. This study determined differences in nutrient and food group intake by snacking level and effects of snacking on the likelihood of adolescents meeting MyPyramid intake recommendations. In addition to food energy, the nutrients studied were energy nutrients as well as micronutrients previously identified as inadequate in a sizable proportion of the adolescent population. Food groups studied were those included in the USDA's MyPyramid Food Guidance System. The percent contribution of snacks to total intake of the MyPyramid components was also determined, and the food items that provided the largest contributions to each component were identified. The information furnished by this study is useful to health and nutrition educators and food service professionals who should consider the major role of snacking in the diets of adolescents, utilize the knowledge of how present snack choices contribute to over/underconsumption of foods and nutrients, and develop acceptable, feasible alternatives for their clients to correct this imbalance.

Technical Abstract: The purpose of this study was to determine how snacking frequency impacts intake of nutrients and food groups and contributes to meeting recommendations outlined in USDA's MyPyramid Food Guidance System. Twenty-four-hour dietary recall data from 4,357 adolescents 12-19 years of age participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 2001-2004 (NHANES) were analyzed. Sociodemographic characteristics were compared across five snacking frequencies. Linear regression was used to examine the effect of snacking on nutrient and food group intake and logistic regression was applied to determine its effect on the likelihood of meeting MyPyramid recommendations. About 90% of adolescents consumed at least one snack on the day surveyed. Each additional snack reported was associated with a -0.40 decrease in BMI (p<.01). Race/ethnicity, income, and propensity to consume three traditional meals were also related to snacking frequency. Food energy, carbohydrate, total sugars, and vitamin C intake were positively associated, and protein and fat intake were negatively associated with snacking frequency. Fruit and oils intake, and the likelihood of meeting fruit recommendations and (for boys only) milk and oils recommendations, increased as snacking increased. Solid fat intake decreased as snacking frequency rose. Foods consumed at snacks provided 12-39% of the day's total intake from the five MyPyramid food groups, 35% of total discretionary calorie intake, and 43% of total sugars intake. Top food choices at snacks provided an excess of discretionary calories in the form of sugars and fats. Snacks constitute a large portion of adolescents' total dietary intake. Snacking frequency affected intake of macronutrients and a few micronutrients and promotes consumption of fruits and oils. Modification of food choices by adolescents at snacks in favor of items providing more nutrients at a lower caloric cost could greatly improve the overall quality of the total diet. The information furnished by this study is useful to health and nutrition educators and food service professionals who should consider the major role of snacking in the diets of adolescents, utilize the knowledge of how present snack choices contribute to over/under-consumption of foods and nutrients, and develop acceptable, feasible alternatives for their clients to correct this imbalance.

Last Modified: 8/2/2014
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