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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: WHAT WE EAT IN AMERICA - DIETARY SURVEY: DATA COLLECTION, INTERPRETATION, DISSEMINATION, AND METHODOLOGY

Location: Food Surveys

Title: Snacking patterns of U.S. adults: What We Eat In America, 2007-2008

Authors
item Sebastian, Rhonda
item Enns, Cecilia
item Goldman, Joseph

Submitted to: Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: June 16, 2011
Publication Date: June 16, 2011
Repository URL: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=19476
Citation: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2011. Snacking patterns of U.S. adults: What We Eat In America, 2007-2008. Available: www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=19476.

Interpretive Summary: The high prevalence of overweight and obesity among the U.S. population has led researchers to question whether associations exist between specific dietary patterns such as snacking and weight status. Using the most recently released nationwide data on dietary intakes from What We Eat In America (WWEIA), NHANES 2007-2008, the following were examined: trends in snacking; relationships between the frequency of snacking in a day, energy intake, and weight status; and the contribution of snacks to the overall nutrient intakes of adults age 20 years and over. “Snacking Patterns of U.S. Adults: What We Eat In America, NHANES 2007-2008,” a Dietary Data Brief available on the Food Surveys Research Group Web site at www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/fsrg, provides a snapshot of snacking behavior among adults. Findings include the following: The percentage of adults consuming at least one snack on any given day was higher than it was 30 years ago, and the number of snacks consumed per day per person doubled; older adults consumed fewer calories from snacking occasions than younger adults; more frequent snacking was associated with higher intakes of calories; the mean number of snacks reported in a day was the same for normal weight, overweight, and obese men and women; and snacks provided about one-fourth of adults’ daily caloric intake and larger proportions of carbohydrate and total sugars but smaller proportions of most other nutrients. Many of the foods that made the largest contributions to adults' calorie intake at snacks were high in sugars and/or fats but low in nutrients. By conveying this information through simple charts and brief text, this Dietary Data Brief widens the pool of users who can benefit from the Food Surveys Research Group’s ongoing work in monitoring and assessing food consumption and related behavior of the U.S. population. This information will be of benefit to legislators, program planners, media, and consumers who want clear and easily comprehensible information about snacking by adults in the United States.

Technical Abstract: The goals of this study were to track changes in snacking frequency over time, determine whether snacking is associated with food energy intake and weight status, identify foods and beverages that make the largest contributions to calories consumed at snacks, and measure the contribution of snacks to overall intakes of nutrients in the U.S. Twenty-four hour dietary recall data from 5,334 adults age 20 years and over participating in What We Eat In America (WWEIA), the dietary intake component of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), in 2007-2008 were analyzed. For the time comparison, data from 16,683 adults who participated in the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey 1977-1978 were used. Regression procedures were used to calculate adjusted means and test for associations between snacking frequency and calorie intake. The percentage of adults who consumed at least one snack on any given day in 2007-2008 (90 percent) was significantly higher than in 1977-78 (59 percent), and the mean number of snacks per person increased from 1.0 to 2.2 per day (p<.01). Consuming more snacks in a day was associated with significantly higher calorie intakes, but the mean number of snacks did not differ by weight status. Foods and beverages consumed at snacks provided 24 percent of the day’s total intake of calories, with higher proportions of carbohydrate, total sugars, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium, but lower proportions of most other nutrients. Many of the foods that made the largest contributions to calorie intakes at snacks were high in sugars and/or fats but low in nutrients. Snacks accounted for a sizable proportion of adults’ total caloric intake. Modification of adults’ food choices at snacks in favor of items providing more nutrients and fewer calories could greatly improve the overall quality of their diets. The information furnished by this study is useful to those interested in the role of snacking in the diets of adults, including legislators, program planners, nutritionists, media, educators, and consumers.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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