Children consume nearly one-third of their daily energy intake as snacks (i.e., eating occasions that occur between meals); thus there is a growing interest in understanding what snacking occasions look like in the homes of young children. This study makes use of ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to 1) examine differences in the contextual factors, including location, food preparation style, people present, presence of media devices, and overall atmosphere, between meal and snack occasions; and 2) explore differences in the context of snacking occasions across children's gender and weight status. Data for the current study came from the Family Matters Study, which included 150 families with children aged 5–7 years old (n = 25 from each of the following groups: Black/African American, Hispanic, Hmong, Native American, Somali, White). Parents completed an 8-day EMA observation period, during which they were surveyed after each eating occasion with the study child; questions explored contextual factors including location, food preparation style, people present, presence of media devices, and the overall atmosphere of each eating occasion. Differences between meals and snacks were observed; a smaller percentage of snacks (compared to meals) were prepared by the parent, consisted of only homemade food, and were planned ahead of time, as opposed to being served in response to a child's request. Snacks were more likely than other meals to be eaten on the couch and in the presence of a screen. Furthermore, important differences in snacking context were observed by child gender and weight status. Findings illuminate opportunities to improve children's overall dietary intake via interventions focused on improving the quality of foods served during snacks, as well as the contextual environment in which snacks are eaten.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research is supported by grant no. R01 HL126171-04 from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (PI: Jerica Berge) and the first authors (KAL) time is supported by grant no. K23-HD090324-01A1 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (PI: Katie Loth). Content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or the National Institutes of Health.
- Dietary intake
- Ecological momentary assessment
- Home environment
- Observational study