From Our 2010 Archives

Many Kids Skipping Meals, Snacking Instead

THURSDAY, Nov. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Many U.S. children are eating more snacks and skipping breakfast and dinner, meals that provide nutrients critical to youngsters' development, behavior and overall health, a new survey has found.

The American Dietetic Association Foundation poll of 1,193 pairs of parents and children (aged 8 to 17) found that breakfast is sometimes missed by 42% of white children and Hispanic children, and 59% of black children. Breakfast is rarely or never eaten by 12% of white and Hispanic children, and 18% of black children.

Previous studies have found that missing breakfast is associated with increased school absenteeism and tardiness, poor attention to tasks and lower test scores, Katie Brown, national education director for the ADA Foundation, noted in an ADA news release.

The survey also found that dinner is not eaten all the time by 22% of white children, 34% of black children and 38% of Hispanic children. Dinner is rarely or never eaten by 3% of white children and 5% of black and Hispanic children.

Snacks are often eaten to replace skipped meals, according to the survey. Snacking immediately after school was reported by 56.7% of white children, 57.8% of black children and 59.1% of Hispanic children. Regular snacking in the evening after dinner was reported by 24 to 26% of all the children, while about 23% of white kids, 30% of black kids and nearly 24% of Hispanic kids said they often or always ate snacks while watching television.

"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 children," Brown said in the news release.

Among the other survey findings:

  • The proportion of daily family meals eaten at home increased from 52% in 2003 to 73% in 2010, and nearly 73% of children are now eating at home on school nights, compared with about 52% in 2003.
  • Most children (51.4% of whites, 56.5% of blacks, 63.8% of Hispanics) said their families never or rarely (less than once a week) eat at fast-food or sit-down restaurants.
  • School lunches are eaten by 56% of white children, 75% of black children and 65% of Hispanic children. Children from low-income families are most likely (82 to 89%) to eat school lunches.
  • Most children said they would be more active if fun activities were offered before school (59 to 79%), during class (80 to 89%) or after school (77 to 92%). Most also said they would be more active if there were safe places to play in their neighborhood (66 to 86%) and if their friends wanted to be active (87 to 89%).
  • Most families (64.4%) engage in sedentary activities (watching TV or movies or playing video games) three or more days a week.

The survey findings were released Nov. 9 at the ADA's Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Boston.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: American Dietetic Association, news release, Nov. 9, 2010