The role of eating frequency on total energy intake and diet quality in a low-income, racially diverse sample of schoolchildren.Public Health Nutr. 2015 Feb; 18(3):474-81.PH
The relationship of meal and snacking patterns with overall dietary intake and relative weight in children is unclear. The current study was done to examine how eating, snack and meal frequencies relate to total energy intake and diet quality.
The cross-sectional associations of eating, meal and snack frequencies with total energy intake and diet quality, measured by the Healthy Eating Index 2005 (HEI-2005), were examined in separate multivariable mixed models. Differences were examined between elementary school-age participants (9-11 years) and adolescents (12-15 years).
Two non-consecutive 24 h diet recalls were collected from children attending four schools in the greater Boston area, MA, USA.
One hundred and seventy-six schoolchildren, aged 9-15 years.
Overall, 82% of participants consumed three daily meals. Eating, meal and snack frequencies were statistically significantly and positively associated with total energy intake. Each additional reported meal and snack was associated with an 18·5% and a 9·4% increase in total energy intake, respectively (P<0·001). The relationships of eating, meal and snack frequencies with diet quality differed by age category. In elementary school-age participants, total eating occasions and snacks increased HEI-2005 score. In adolescents, each additional meal increased HEI-2005 score by 5·40 points (P=0·01), whereas each additional snack decreased HEI-2005 score by 2·73 points (P=0·006).
Findings suggest that snacking increases energy intake in schoolchildren. Snacking is associated with better diet quality in elementary school-age children and lower diet quality in adolescents. Further research is needed to elucidate the role of snacking in excess weight gain in children and adolescents.