Changing children’s snacking intentions and behavior could be crucial in reducing childhood obesity rates, as US children consume about a quarter of their daily calories from snacks, according to a new study published in International Quarterly of Community Health Education.
The study, conducted by Paul Branscum, assistant professor of health and exercise science at the University of Oklahoma, and Manoj Sharma, a University of Cincinnati professor of health promotion and education, examined the snack choices of 167 fourth- and fifth-grade children in the Midwest.
The children reported consuming an average of 302 calories from calorically dense, nutrient poor snacks such as cookies, potato chips and candy over a 24-hour period, and an average of 45 calories from fruit and vegetable snacks.
The researchers also examined the children’s attitudes to snacking, including whether they perceived particular snack choices to be positive or negative; whether they felt that others preferred that they did or did not choose particular snacks; and whether they felt that they had control over their own snack choices. They found that these perceptions strongly predicted children’s choices of healthy or unhealthy snacks.
“Intentions predicted both types of snack foods in the expected direction,” the researchers wrote. “…It is evident from this and other studies that more health education programs for upper elementary children are needed that mediate positive changes in modifiable factors related to childhood obesity, such as snacking.”
The study’s authors also suggested that an increase in snacking in the United States may be related to an increase in the number of children who skip breakfast, with children compensating by eating more snack foods. They cited previous research, which has reported that 21% of 8- and 9-year-olds and 42% of 12- and 13-year-olds skip breakfast throughout the week.
In this latest study, nine in ten (91%) of the children reported snacking at least once per day, and many children have greater control over the foods they consume as snacks than those they eat at mealtimes, they wrote.
Source: International Quarterly of Community Health Education
Vol. 32(1) 41-55, 2011-2012; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/IQ.32.1.e
“Using the Theory of Planned Behavior to Predict Two Types of Snack Food Consumption among Midwestern Upper Elementary Children: Implications for Practice”
Authors: Paul Branscum and Manoj Sharma