To describe meal and snack patterns of Hispanic and non-Hispanic infants and toddlers.
A cross-sectional telephone survey in which mothers or other primary caregivers reported their infants' and toddlers' food and beverage intake for a 24-hour period.
Subjects were a subset of the national random sample of children aged 4-24 months who participated in the 2002 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study. The Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study includes a stratified random sample of 3,022 infants and toddlers aged 4-24 months. Three hundred seventy-one Hispanic and 2,637 non-Hispanic children who had 24-hour dietary recalls are included in the subset.
Means+/-standard errors of daily intakes of energy, nutrients, and nutrient densities were calculated, as were percentages of children consuming foods at each eating occasion.
Hispanic and non-Hispanic infants and toddlers, on average, were fed seven times per day. Overall, the percentages of children who ate snacks increased with age, and more than 80% of toddlers aged 12-24 months consumed afternoon snacks, with more than 90% of Hispanic children consuming an afternoon snack. In each age group, there were significant differences between ethnic groups in nutrient intakes by eating occasion. No significant difference was seen for energy across all meal occasions. At age 6-11 months, Hispanic children had a significantly lower intake of carbohydrate at dinner and lower intake of saturated fat at afternoon snacks compared with non-Hispanic children (P<.05). The main difference between Hispanic children's and non-Hispanic children's intakes by eating occasion is at age 12-24 months. Hispanics aged 12-24 months had significantly (P<.05) lower percentages of energy from fat and saturated fat and a significantly (P<.05) higher percentage of carbohydrate at lunch compared with non-Hispanic children. For dinner, Hispanic toddlers had significantly (P<.05) lower intakes of total fat and saturated fat compared with non-Hispanic toddlers at age 12-24 months. Overall fiber intake contributed 2 g/meal for both ethnic groups. Snacks contributed, on average, less than 1 g fiber, except Hispanic toddlers had significantly higher fiber intake at afternoon snacks (1.5 g) than non-Hispanic toddlers. Foods frequently consumed at meals and snacks were lacking in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Most nutrients were not significantly different between Hispanics and non-Hispanics for meals and snacks.
Considering the sizeable contribution that snacks make toward overall energy, parents and caregivers should plan toddlers' snacks to complement meals by including additional fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are culturally appropriate rather than fruit drinks, cookies, and crackers. This will increase fiber intake and limit fat and sugar intakes. To develop healthful eating patterns, introduce toddlers to foods eight to 10 times to increase food acceptance and the likelihood of establishing healthful eating patterns. Dietetics professionals need to consider cultural differences when developing meal and snack patterns for Hispanic and non-Hispanic infants and toddlers.