Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Snacking behaviours of adolescents and their association with skipping meals

Gayle Savige, Abbie MacFarlane, Kylie Ball, Anthony Worsley and David Crawford*

Author Affiliations

Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2007, 4:36  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-4-36

Published: 17 September 2007

Abstract

Background

Snacking is likely to play an important role in the development of overweight and obesity, yet little is known about the contexts of snacking in adolescents or how snacking may influence other dietary habits, like meal skipping. This study examines the contexts in which adolescents snack and whether these contexts are associated with demographic characteristics of adolescents and with meal skipping.

Methods

A cross-sectional, self-reported online food habits survey was administered to 3,250 secondary students in years seven and nine. The students were drawn from 37 secondary schools in Victoria, Australia during 2004–2005. Frequencies of meal skipping, and snacking in eight contexts, were compared across gender, year level and region of residence. Logistic regressions were performed to examine associations between snacking contexts and meal skipping adjusting for gender and region.

Results

The most common contexts for snacking among adolescents were after school (4.6 times per week), while watching TV (3.5 times per week) and while hanging out with friends (2.4 times per week). Adolescents were least likely to snack all day long (0.8 times per week) or in the middle of the night (0.4 times per week). Snacking contexts were variously associated with gender, year level and region. In contrast, meal skipping was associated with gender and region of residence but not year level. Adolescents who reported more frequent snacking on the run, on the way to or from school, all day long, or in the middle of the night were more likely to skip meals.

Conclusion

These data suggest adolescents snack frequently, especially in their leisure time. In addition, adolescents who snack on the run, on the way to or from school, all day long or in the middle of the night are more likely to skip meals than are adolescents who don't snack at these times. Understanding the contexts in which adolescents snack, and their associations with skipping meals, may assist those involved in the promotion of healthy food habits among adolescents.