Recent work in family nutrition suggests a focus on snacking, since children's snacks are often lower in nutrients than foods served at mealtime and have increased in frequency and caloric contribution. Developing healthy snacking habits in early life may impact the trajectory of snacking behaviors later in life.
To explore the relationships between snacking patterns and snack-related parenting; and drivers of snacking decisions and desired support for parents.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
A mixed-methods approach was used among student parents whose child(ren) attended a preschool program at a Southern California university.
A modified version of the Snack Intake Frequency Questionnaire and the Parenting around Snacking Questionnaire (P-SNAQ) were used to explore correlations between snacking patterns and snack-related parenting. Three focus groups were conducted to identify drivers of snacking decisions and to guide design of healthy snacking intervention strategies. Focus group transcripts were coded using thematic analysis by 2 independent coders.
Survey participants (n = 42) were predominantly female (n = 35) and identified as Hispanic/Latino (n = 19). Findings indicated positive correlations between frequency of offering healthy snacks and reasoning/support for healthy snacks (r = 0.43, P = 0.006) and snack planning/routines (r = 0.37, P = 0.02); a negative correlation between frequency of unhealthy snacks and availability of healthy snacks (r = -0.32, P = 0.04); and negative correlations between parent age and emotion-based snacking (r = -0.46, P = 0.003), snacks as rewards (r = -0.35, P = 0.03), and snacks to manage behavior (r = -0.45, P = 0.005). Focus group findings (n = 11) suggest parents balance priorities when making snacking decisions, including health, behavior control, convenience/accessibility, parent/child roles, and social influences. Parents suggested a snacking-focused class with information on snacking strategies and social support.
Findings suggest younger parents may benefit from snacking-focused intervention programs that support healthy snacking routines and alternative behavior management strategies for children.