Frequent consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor snack foods is an eating behavior of public health concern. This study was designed to inform strategies for reducing adolescent intake of energy-dense snack foods by identifying individual and environmental influences. Surveys were completed in 2009–2010 by 2540 adolescents (54% females, mean age = 14.5 ± 2.0, 80% nonwhite) in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota schools. Daily servings of energy-dense snack food was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire that asked about consumption of 21 common snack food items, such as potato chips, cookies, and candy. Data representing characteristics of adolescents' environments were collected from parents/caregivers, friends, school personnel, Geographic Information System sources, and a content analysis of favorite television shows. Linear regression was used to examine relationships between each individual or environmental characteristic and snack food consumption in separate models and also to examine relationships in a model including all of the characteristics simultaneously. The factors found to be significantly associated with higher energy-dense snack food intake represented individual attitudes/behaviors (e.g., snacking while watching television) and characteristics of home/family (e.g., home unhealthy food availability), peer (friends' energy-dense snack food consumption), and school (e.g., student snack consumption norms) environments. In total, 25.5% of the variance in adolescents' energy-dense snack food consumption was explained when factors from within each context were examined together. The results suggest that the design of interventions targeting improvement in the dietary quality of adolescents' snack food choices should address relevant individual factors (e.g., eating while watching television) along with characteristics of their home/family (e.g., limiting the availability of unhealthy foods), peer (e.g., guiding the efforts of a peer leader in making healthy choices), and school environments (e.g., establishing student norms for selecting nutrient-dense snack foods).
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by Grant Number R01HL084064 (PI: Dianne Neumark-Sztainer) from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and by Grant Number R03HD079504 (PI: Nicole Larson) from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The 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.
- Home environment
- School environment
- Snack food