Children replacing meals with snacking, finds survey

Related tags Percent Nutrition

Many children are skipping meals and replacing them with snacks, according to a new American Dietetic Association (ADA) Foundation survey.

The ADA Foundation's survey polled 1,193 pairs of parents and their children, aged 8 to 17, about their nutrition knowledge, eating habits and physical activity, as well as parents’ awareness of their children’s behaviors, following up on a 2003 survey.

It found that 42 percent of Caucasian children, 59 percent of African-American children and 42 percent of Hispanic children do not eat breakfast every day. In addition, 12 percent of Caucasian, 18 percent of African-American and 12 percent of Hispanic children said they never or rarely ate breakfast.

Registered dietitian and national education director for the ADA Foundation Dr. Katie Brown said: "Research has shown that malnutrition is a serious concern for many US children – regardless of their weight – and if children are skipping major meals with higher nutrient content it can affect their ability to learn, as well as their behavior and their development.”

In line survey results from market research organizations, the ADA Foundation survey found that there has been a significant upturn in the number of daily meals eaten at home since 2003, from 52 percent to 73 percent in 2010.

However, some children were also found to be skipping dinner, with 22 percent of Caucasian children, 34 percent of African-American children and 38 percent of Hispanic children reporting that they did not eat dinner every day. Three percent of Caucasian children, five percent of African-American children and five percent of Hispanic children were found to never or rarely eat dinner.

Despite missed meals, most children supplement food consumed at mealtimes with snacking, the survey found. Most children (57-59 percent) reported snacking directly after school most or all of the time; about a quarter said they snacked while watching television most or all of the time; and about a quarter said they snacked regularly after dinner.

“The fact that children snack throughout the day provides an opportunity for parents and schools to offer nutrient-rich snacks to supplement any missed meals, and provide quality nutrition for our children,"​ Brown said.

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