The best snacks at any age, she said, are ones that are nutrient-rich, rather than calorically dense.
To conduct the study, Evans and a team of registered dietitians asked kids (with parental consent) at four Boston-area schools to provide some basic demographic information. Then, on two separate occasions, the kids completed a 24-hour diet recall, in which they recounted what they ate during the previous day. The kids were provided with references to help them describe what and how much they consumed.
Evans, Must and their colleagues determined the number of meals and snacks reported by each child, along with their total energy intake and diet quality score, as measured by the Healthy Eating Index, 2005. In all their analyses, the researchers accounted for variables such as gender, ethnicity, eligibility for free and reduced-price lunches, maternal education, and levels of physical activity.
The study data do not overtly explain why snacking has opposite effects on diet quality depending on a child's age, but the researchers note that younger children more frequently depend on (and perhaps abide) grownups, while older kids are more often make their own snacking choices.
The findings suggest a clear decay in snacking quality as children age, but rather than despairing, parents, educators and other care providers can make use of the findings, Evans said. One step could be to emphasize good snacking habits among younger kids, who may be relatively receptive to such messages, so that their potential decline may start from a better place. Another is to recognize that adolescents may be inclined to make worse
|Contact: David Orenstein|