|dc.description.abstract||Children have high energy requirements for growth and activity so they may not able to meet their nutritional requirements through main meals alone due to their small stomach capacity. Hence, children rely on snacks to meet their nutritional needs. However, little is known about the snack consumption of New Zealand children. The aim of this project was to determine the nutrient and food group intakes from snacks of a sample of 5-year old children living in Dunedin, New Zealand, and the extent to which snacks help them meet the Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2 to 18 years).
A weighed diet record was collected on three non-consecutive days over a month in a sample of 44 children aged 5-6 years living in Dunedin, New Zealand. The diet records were analysed using the Department of Human Nutrition’s web-based dietary analysis program, Kai-culator. Snacks were defined as food and drink items consumed between main meals, with main meals defined as the highest energy eating occasions within specified time periods. Frequency of snacking was determined, and the nutrient intakes from snacks on each snacking occasion were identified. The contribution of snacks to meeting the four major food groups listed in the first Food and Nutrition Guideline for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2 to 18 years): 1) ‘vegetables and fruit’, 2) ‘breads and cereals’, 3) ‘milk and milk products or suitable alternatives’, and 4) ‘lean meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds’ was also determined.
On average, children were consuming 5.0 snacks per day, and this did not vary by sex, weight status, or socio-economic status. Snacks accounted for 27% of children’s average total daily energy intake, with the highest energy intake (790kJ per day) from snack, consumed as afternoon snacks. The children obtained at least 20% of their daily nutrient intakes for carbohydrate, dietary fibre, protein, fat, iron, zinc and vitamin C from snacks. However, children also obtained 25% of fat, 27% of saturated fat, 43% of available sugars, and 22% of sodium intake from snacks. The food group recommended in the first Food and Nutrition Guideline for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2 to 18 years) that snacks contributed to most strongly was the ‘vegetables and fruit’ food group (37% of intake from the food group was provided by snacks). The food group least contributed to by snacks was the ‘breads and cereals’ food group (15% of intake from the food group was provided by snacks).
In conclusion, snacks made an important contribution to energy and nutrient intakes in 5-year old New Zealand children. Snacks also assisted children in meeting the Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2 to 18 years), although they also provided substantial amounts of saturated fat, sugars and sodium. Hence, snacks play an important role in influencing the nutritional quality of the diets of young children. Snack consumption in children offers an opportunity to achieve optimal nutrition in early life, potentially reducing future risks of developing nutrition-related diseases.||