Poster Topical Area: Nutrition Education and Behavioral Sciences
Poster Board Number: 172
Objectives: As children move into adolescence, food choices made independently may greatly affect dietary intake. Little is known regarding food choices adolescents make when not with parents/caregivers. The objective of this study was to characterize independent eating occasions (IEO) among adolescents with regards to frequency, eating location, activities while eating, and types of food consumed.
Methods: In a formative, cross-sectional study, low-income adolescents ages 10-13 years (n=46) in 10 U.S. states were asked to take pictures of all foods consumed over a 24-hour period followed by semi-structured interviews. Trained interviewers asked participants to describe the context of each eating occasion, using the pictures as a guide.
Results: Sixty percent of participants were female, and average age was 10.9±1.1 years. Most participants identified as Hispanic/Latino (39.1%), non-Hispanic Black (26.1%), or non-Hispanic White (21.7%). Overall, participants reported more IEO (172 occasions) than non-IEO (107 occasions), with an average of 3.8±2.2 IEOs daily. More than half (65.1%) of IEO were classified as "snacks." Most IEOs occurred at home (72.1%), followed by school (18.6%), someone else's house (4.7%), another location (3.5%), and car/bus (1.2%). While 30% of adolescents were not performing any other activities while eating, others were watching TV/surfing the internet (31.8%), hanging out with a friend (15.9%), at an afterschool program (1.2%), studying/reading (0.6%), and doing something else (20.6%). The most frequent foods consumed during IEO were sweet snacks (cakes, cookies) (15.4%), followed by grains (bread, pasta) (13.4%), fruits (8.9%), salty snacks (chips) (8.3%), dairy (milk, cheese) (7.9%), and sugar-sweetened drinks (7.1%).
Conclusions: Adolescents frequently made independent food choices. Many foods consumed during IEO were energy-dense snacks eaten at home that had little nutritional value. Understanding choices made and their context may allow for promotion of healthy eating habits in this age group.
University of Hawaii at Manoa