Switching Snack Type Could Strongly Affect Calorie Intake

cheese_veggie_snackWhile there are several factors contributing to the United States’ childhood obesity epidemic, increased snacking is a leading contributor.  Children now have an average of three snacks per day, which is much higher than thirty years ago when children had an average of one snack per day.  Limiting snacking and restricting unhealthy food seems like it would be the obvious answer, but experts warn that it can often backfire, leading children to overindulge in these foods when they are in an unregulated environment.  With this is mind, researchers set out to determine if there are certain snack combinations that would lead children to feel full while taking in fewer calories.

To test snack combinations, they conducted an experiment with about 200 children in the third through six grades. While watching one of their favorite after-school cartoons, the children were given either a plate of potato chips, a plate of vegetables, a plate of cheese, or a plate with a vegetables and cheese combo. The researchers collected information about the kids’ fullness at the start of the cartoon, after watching one cartoon, and then again after watching a second cartoon.  They found that the kids who had the vegetable and cheese snack plate needed considerably fewer calories than the children who had the potato chips to achieve fullness.

There were two groups of children that demonstrated the greatest reduction in calories consumed when eating the cheese and vegetable snack instead of potato chips: children from “low-involvement” families (defined as families that spent less time eating meals together or interacting with each other while eating) and overweight children. The greatest difference was seen in overweight/obese children who consumed 76 percent fewer calories when they had the cheese and vegetable combo snack. Both groups reported being as full when eating the cheese and veggie snack as they did with chips.

In other evidence against offering potato chips as a snack, a recent study showed that kids who snack on salty foods are more likely to pair them with sugary drinks. So in addition to needing more calories to feel full, eating chips may lead to increased calorie intake in the form of liquid calories. Australian researchers found that salt consumption in kids aged 2 through 16 was positively associated with drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, and increased obesity risks by 26 percent. Older children and those with a lower socioeconomic status were more likely to consume sugary beverages. After taking into account several factors including age and gender, researchers found that each additional gram of salt consumed in a day was associated with an additional 17 g of sugary drink per day. They concluded that due to correlations between salt and sugary drink consumption, a reduction in salt intake in children may help to reduce the amount of sugary beverages consumed, which in turn may reduce childhood obesity risk.

Related Reading: Parents Underestimate Calories in Children’s Fast Food Meals

Comments are closed.