- The nutritional impact of snacking on the diets of female,
freshman college students between the ages of 17 and 20 years was
assessed. Sixty-five women living in freshman residence halls at
Oregon State University recorded their dietary intakes and eating
habits for four days. Questionnaires concerning eating and activity
patterns were also completed. Dietary intakes were analyzed for
energy (kcal), protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin,
niacin and ascorbic acid. The nutrient contents of snacks, meals,
and nutrient supplements consumed by the subjects were calculated.
Nutrient densities (nutrient/1000 kcal) of meals and snacks were
also calculated for the above nutrients. All subjects received a
Dietary Adequacy Score, which was computed from their mean daily intake
over the four-day period, by assigning one point for each
nutrient consumed at or above two-thirds of the RDA.
All but one subject snacked during the four-day recording
period. The subjects consumed a mean of 1.54 snacks daily, with
means of 0.19 morning, 0.47 afternoon, and 0.88 evening snacks.
With the exception of ascorbic acid, the mean nutrient desities
of snacks were significantly (p<0.01) lower than that of meals. The
mean nutrient densities of snacks were well below the RDA/1000 kcal
for all of the calculated nutrients, again, with the exception of
ascorbic acid. Snacks contributed about 20 percent of the mean
total energy intake; the proportions supplied by snacks to the mean
nutrient intakes were considerably lower (8 to 13 percent).
Meal frequency was negatively correlated with snack frequency
(r= -.24, p<0.05) and snack energy intake (r= -.40, p<0.01). Lunch
was the meal most negatively correlated with snacking frequency
(r = .33, p<0.01) and snack energy intake ( r= -.37, p<0.01). By
examining when snacking and when missed meals occurred, it appears
that snacks were often consumed as a result of missed meals rather
than the cause of them. Breakfast was missed most often and dinner
least often with snacking occurring most often in the evening and
afternoon. Snacks consumed at these times would not have interfered
with either lunch or breakfast.
Despite the relatively poor nutritional value of snack foods
eaten by the subjects (as evidenced by the low nutrient densities),
snacks actually improved the Dietary Adequacy Scores of 28 subjects.
However, 16 subjects exceeded the RDA for energy with the addition of
snacks, eight of whom were not included in the above group of 28
with the improved Dietary Adequacy Scores. But in all, 20 subjects
(31 percent) had their Dietary Adequacy Scores improved by snacks,
without exceeding the 2100 kcal RDA for energy.
The foods most commonly eaten as snacks were (in descending
order): cookies, cake and pastries; candy; fruit; dairy desserts;
popcorn; crackers, chips etc.; soft drinks; and alcoholic beverages.