Snacking Patterns of Preschool-Aged Children: Opportunity for Improvement
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PURPOSE: Dietary patterns established in childhood track into adulthood. Despite this, little research has explored preschoolers' snacking. This study examined snacking patterns (frequency, quality, quantity) of preschool-aged boys and girls. METHODS: Cross-sectional data were collected on 52 children (23 males; 3.4 ± 1.1 years of age; BMI 16.1 ± 1.4 kg/m2) enrolled in the Guelph Family Health Study pilot. Parent-reported 3-day food records were analyzed for children's snacking patterns including frequency (number of snacking occasions per day), quantity (percent energy from snacks) and quality (inclusion of food groups from Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide, macronutrient distribution, sugary and salty snacks). Mann-Whitney U tests examined sex differences in snacking patterns. RESULTS: Ninety-six percent of children snacked daily, consuming a mean of 2.3 ± 0.7 snacks per day. Snacks accounted for one-third of daily energy. 78% of boys' versus 63% of girls' snacks contained a food group (P = 0.016). Boys consumed significantly fewer sugary snacks (0.5 ± 0.4 vs 0.9 ± 0.6 snacks per day, P = 0.016), although the percent of snack calories from sugar for both boys and girls was high (group mean 37.2 ± 6.7%). CONCLUSIONS: Nearly all preschoolers in this study snacked daily, and consumed a variety of snack foods. Boys' and girls' snacking preferences begin to diverge early in life. Preschool children should be encouraged to consume healthful snacks.
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