Children who eat healthy between meals, like fruits and other food items that they may not otherwise have, can end up having better quality diets.
A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics examined data on eating habits from children between five and seven years old.
When researchers only looked at meals kids ate, they were found to have an average so-called Healthy Eating Index (HEI) score of 55.3 out of a possible 100 points for an optimal diet. Kids who snacked recorded an average score of 57.1.
“Among the children included in the current study, snacking was found to contribute positively to overall diet quality,” lead study author Katie Loth, University of Minnesota and colleagues mention in the study.
On the other hand, snacking in some cases involved the risk of consumption of sugar sweetened beverages and refined grains.
The kids analysed in the study got an average of 1,215 calories a day from meals alone, and an average of 1,581 daily calories when researchers looked at both meals and snacks.
Snacking was also found to make a bigger difference in the overall diet quality for boys compared to girls. Diet analysis excluding snacks contributed to a 2.5-point drop in diet quality scores for boys but just a 1-point dip for girls.
“Future research should seek to better understand influences on children’s food choices at snack times and barriers to serving more healthful foods as snacks that are faced by ethnically or racially diverse families,” the study said.
“The development of interventions that aim to improve children’s consumption of healthful foods at snack times should be pursued,” researchers advised.
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