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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Nicklas, Theresa
item Morales, Miriam
item Linares, Adriana
item Yang, Su-jau
item Baranowski, Thomas
item De Moor, Carl
item Berenson, Gerald

Submitted to: Journal Of The American Dietetic Association
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2004
Publication Date: 5/1/2004
Citation: Nicklas, T., Morales, M., Linares, A., Yang, S., Baranowski, T., De Moor, C., Berenson, G. 2004. Children's meal patterns have changed over a 21-year period: the Bogalusa Heart Study. Journal Of The American Dietetic Association. 104(5):753-761.

Interpretive Summary: We evaluated the meal patterns of 10-year-old children in a small town in Louisiana over two decades ending in 1994, in order to find out whether there were changes in their meal patterns over that time. These children included both Caucasians and African-Americans. We obtained our data by asking the children for information about their food intake over the previous 24 hours. The number of children skipping breakfast initially increased until school breakfast was introduced in 1981, at which point there was a decline. However, a substantial number of children continued to skip breakfast. In general, over the two decades studied here, there was a significant increase in the number of children who ate fast food, while there were decreases in the number of children who ate dinner at home, in the number of snacks they ate, the number of eating episodes, and the individual eating time span. Females and blacks had shorter eating time spans than their gender and racial counterparts. Many complex changes took place in these children's eating patterns over this 20-year period. The changes in these Louisiana children's meal patterns over a two-decade period ending in 1994 may be analyzed in future to determine whether they might suggest factors that could be connected to current national health problems, such as pediatric obesity.

Technical Abstract: Background. A child's usual pattern of consuming meals can influence general health and well-being. This study analyzed children's meal patterns over two decades. Methods. A twenty-four hour dietary recall was collected on 1584 10-year-old children [65% Euro-American (EA), 35% African-American (AA)], in seven cross-sectional surveys in Bogalusa, Louisiana, from 1973 to 1994. Results. From 1973 to 1978, there was a marked increase (p<0.0001) in the percentage of children who skipped breakfast, from 8.2% to 29.6%. When school breakfast was introduced in 1981, the proportion of children skipping breakfast declined to 12.5% (p<0.01). From 1973-74 to 1993-94, the percentage of children eating a school lunch declined from 89.7% (1973-74) to 78.2% (1993-94) (p<0.002); eating lunch brought from home increased from 5.9% to 11.1% (p<0.01); consuming a home dinner decreased from 89.2% to 75.9% (p<0.01); eating a dinner prepared outside the home increased from 5.4% to 19.0% (p<0.01); consuming a meal at a fast-food restaurant increased from 0.3% to 5.4% (p<0.0001); consuming snacks decreased (p<0.0001) and the mean number of snacks decreased from 3.79 to 2.46 (p<0.001); total eating episodes decreased from 6.6 to 5.2 (p<0.0001).; and eating time span significantly decreased from 12.4 hours to 11.5 hours (p<0.0001). Conclusions. Striking alterations in meal patterns of children occurred over the two-decade period. These changes may have implications for the changes in weight status and dietary intakes of children during the same time.

Last Modified: 10/18/2017
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