Snacking is common among children; often including low-nutrient dense foods. Children from rural areas consume fewer fruits and vegetables (FV) than recommended but little is known about their snacking patterns.
Examine associations between different types of snacks and demographics, family meal frequency and FV intake among rural children.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Baseline data (2017/2018) were used from 106 parent/child dyads in the NU-HOME randomized controlled trial designed to prevent childhood obesity in rural communities. Children were mostly female (60%), 8.9 years old on average (SD = 104) and 28% of families received economic assistance. Parents reported on their child's snacking via text surveys on 7 random evenings over a 2-week period. Past week family meal frequency and demographics (child age, sex, economic assistance, parent education) were collected via parent survey. FV servings were averaged over 2 dietary recalls.
Snack categories were created using factor analysis: Fruit/Yogurt (Fruit, yogurt, 100% juice), Vegetables/Cheese, Granola bars/Chips (including cereal and crackers), and Sugar-sweetened snacks (sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, baked sweets, ice cream). Items in each snack category were summed over 7 days. Correlations and t-tests examined associations between the number of items from each snack category and demographics, family meal frequency, and FV servings.
Children ate a variety of foods for snacks with most being sugar-sweetened snacks (M = 5.52, SD = 3.64) followed by Fruit/Yogurt (M = 4.97, SD = 3.39), Granola bars/Chips (M = 3.67, SD = 2.38), and Vegetables/Cheese (M = 2.24, SD = 2.10). Children whose families received economic assistance were more likely to eat Fruit/Yogurt snacks (6.2 vs 4.5 snacks; P = .02) and less likely to eat Sugar-sweetened snacks (4.2 vs 6.0 snacks; P = .02) than those who did not receive economic assistance. Family meal frequency was negatively correlated with Sugar-sweetened snacks (r = −0.25; P = .009). Servings of FV was positively correlated with Fruit/Yogurt snacks (r = 0.19; P = .046).
Innovative, real-time snacking data indicate nutrition educators should encourage nutrient-dense snacks particularly among families who do not regularly eat family meals.