Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BHNRC) » Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center » Food Surveys Research Group » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #370753

Research Project: The Role of Dietary and Lifestyle Factors on Nutrition and Related Health Status Using Large-Scale Survey Data

Location: Food Surveys Research Group

Title: Late evening food and beverage consumption by adolescents in the U.S.: What We Eat in America, NHANES 2013-2016

item Sebastian, Rhonda
item Enns, Cecilia
item Goldman, Joseph
item Moshfegh, Alanna

Submitted to: Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group
Publication Type: Research Technical Update
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/18/2019
Publication Date: 12/18/2019
Citation: Sebastian, R.S., Enns, C.W., Goldman, J.D., Moshfegh, A.J. 2019. Late evening food and beverage consumption by adolescents in the U.S.: What We Eat in America, NHANES 2013-2016. Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group. Available:

Interpretive Summary: With obesity currently affecting 1 in 5 adolescents, researchers are interested in factors related to higher energy intakes. A European study found that eating late in the day was associated with a higher total daily energy intake. However, there is a lack of current information about food and beverage consumption by U.S. youth during this time of day. We used nationwide survey data to study eating and drinking during the late evening (between 8:00 pm and 11:59 pm) by adolescents age 12-19 years. We classified anyone who ate or drank any food or beverage except plain water during the late evening as a “consumer” and everyone else as a “non-consumer.” Nearly two in three (63%) adolescents consumed a food or beverage other than plain water in the late evening. Late evening consumption was more common among older than younger adolescents. It was also more common among non-Hispanic Blacks than non-Hispanic Whites. Compared to non-consumers, consumers had higher total daily intakes of energy, most energy-providing nutrients, and several vitamins and minerals. In the late evening, the most commonly consumed foods were snacks and sweets, and the most commonly consumed beverage was water. This new look at late evening consumption can inform policy-makers, dietitians, nutritionists, and consumers about the role it currently plays in the dietary intake of U.S. youth.

Technical Abstract: Consuming foods and/or beverages late in the day has been associated with higher total daily energy intake in some populations. However, current information about this practice in U.S. youth is lacking. The objectives of this study were to characterize late evening consumption among U.S. adolescents and to compare energy intakes between late evening consumers and non-consumers. One day of dietary intake from 2,492 individuals age 12-19 years participating in What We Eat in America, NHANES 2013-2016 was analyzed. Late evening intake was defined as any food or beverage consumption that commenced between 8:00 pm and 11:59 pm. A “consumer” was anyone who had any late evening intake other than plain water; all others were classified as non-consumers. Paired comparisons identified differences in prevalence of late evening consumption by selected demographic variables and in energy intakes by late evening consumption status. On any given day, 63% of adolescents in the U.S. consumed at least one food or beverage (other than plain water) in the late evening. Though prevalence of late evening consumption did not vary by sex, it was higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than 12- to 15-year-olds and among non-Hispanic Blacks than non-Hispanic Whites (p<0.01). Total daily energy intake was nearly 300 kilocalories higher for late evening consumers than for non-consumers. Among consumers, late evening foods/beverages contributed substantially to total daily intakes of energy (28%) and all nutrients studied (21 to 30%). The most frequently consumed food group in the late evening was snacks and sweets (44% of consumers), and the most frequently consumed beverage group was water (30% of consumers). Intake of foods and beverages late in the day is common among U.S. adolescents. This report can inform nutrition guidance efforts to improve adolescents’ choices made during this time of day and thus enhance overall dietary intake.