Researchers examining the snacking habits of fourth and fifth-graders aren't at all surprised there's a childhood obesity problem. They report that snacking represents a large part of children’s daily calorie intake.
Overall, the children in the study group reported consuming an average of approximately 300 calories from high-calorie, low-nutrition foods such as chips, candy and cookies – nearly 17 percent of their daily caloric needs. They reported eating only 45 calories from fruits and vegetables combined.
Bad snack choices
The study by the University of Cincinnati suggests that part of the increases in childhood snacking could be because many children skip breakfast. Another reason is that children are now more likely to have greater control over choosing their snacks, and they make bad choices.
Higher calorie snacks such as chips and cookies are less filling – making it easier to over consume them – compared with higher-fiber fruits and vegetables. The study suggested that in the battle against childhood obesity, snack foods should be of particular concern because they’re relatively cheap and easy for children to purchase.
Gender and ethnicity differences
The study found some significant differences in snack choices among gender and ethnicity. For example, girls reported eating more high-calorie snacks than boys.
Paul Branscum, assistant professor of health and exercise science at the University of Oklahoma, took part in the study and says children simply aren't feeling the required social pressure to choose healthy snacks over unhealthy snacks that might taste better.
“Children may not comprehend long-term benefits or consequences of obesity, such as developing chronic conditions in adulthood, but it’s likely that they would understand immediate benefits of a healthier lifestyle, such as being better able to play team or individual sports,” Branscum said.
The authors add that targeting obesity in children is especially important to head off future health threats such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as future skyrocketing costs in healthcare as a result of the growing rate of obesity.