Independent eating occasions (iEOs) among adolescents were associated with poorer diet quality and overweight status in previous studies. Little is known about how iEOs (frequency and food groups/food types consumed) vary by personal (e.g., age, sex, race, ethnicity) and household (e.g., food security) characteristics and other factors (e.g., school learning format - online vs. remote).
To determine associations among iEOs (frequency and food groups/food types consumed) and key personal and household characteristics among low-income adolescents in the US.
Study Design, Settings, Participants
A US-based online cross-sectional survey was administered to a national sample of low-income adolescents who reported iEOs and their parents (n = 622 dyads) from Qualtrics survey panelists (November/December 2021). About half were 11-12 years (44%), boys (53%), non-Hispanic White (44%), and from food-insecure households (52%). About two-thirds (68%) reported attending school in person. An adapted 27-item FLASHE (Family Life, Activity, Sun, Health, Eating) Study food frequency questionnaire was used to quantify mean daily intake frequencies of food groups/types consumed overall and during iEOs.
Chi-square tests were used to compare iEO frequency by demographic characteristics. Linear regression analyses were used to determine associations among mean iEO and overall daily food group intake frequencies (dependent variables) and iEO frequency (independent variable) adjusting for demographic and household characteristics.
Frequency of iEOs was ≤ 3-4 times/week (46%) and ≥ 5-6 times/week (54%), with no differences by age group, sex, or in-person school attendance. Frequency of IEOs was positively associated with intake frequencies for all food groups both during IEOs and overall. Higher daily iEO intake frequencies of sugar-sweetened beverages, fast food/convenience foods, and all detrimental foods were also associated with food insecurity and non-Hispanic White race.
More frequent iEOs were associated with greater daily intake frequency of less healthful and healthful foods during iEOs and overall. Nutrition education could focus on increasing intake of healthful foods during iEOs for food-insecure youth.