Objectives: To determine snacking trends and changes in nutrient contribution of snacking over time.
Study design: Nationally representative data from the 1977-78 Nationwide Food Consumption Survey (NFCS77), 1989-91 Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals (CSFII89), and 1994-96 (CSFII96) were used. The sample consisted of 21,236 individuals aged 2 to 18 years.
Methods: For each survey year, mean numbers of snacks consumed, mean grams consumed per snack, and mean energy intake from snacks were computed, as was contribution of snacking to total energy intake and fat intake. Snacking was self-defined, and a snacking occasion consisted of all snack foods consumed during a 15-minute period. Differences in means between age groups and across survey years were compared.
Results: The prevalence of snacking increased in all age groups. The average size of snacks and energy per snack remained relatively constant; however, the number of snacking occasions increased significantly, therefore increasing the average daily energy from snacks. Compared with non-snack eating occasions, the nutrient contribution of snacks decreased in calcium density and increased in energy density and proportion of energy from fat.
Conclusion: Snacking is extremely prevalent in our society. Healthy snack food choices should be emphasized over high-energy density convenience snacks for children.