To describe snacking characteristics and patterns in children and examine associations with diet quality and BMI.
Children’s weight and height were measured. Participants/adult proxies completed multiple 24 h dietary recalls. Snack occasions were self-identified. Snack patterns were derived for each sample using exploratory factor analysis. Associations of snacking characteristics and patterns with Healthy Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010) score and BMI were examined using multivariable linear regression models.
Childhood Obesity Prevention and Treatment Research (COPTR) Consortium, USA: NET-Works, GROW, GOALS and IMPACT studies.
Predominantly low-income, racial/ethnic minorities: NET-Works (n 534, 2–4-year-olds); GROW (n 610, 3–5-year-olds); GOALS (n 241, 7–11-year-olds); IMPACT (n 360, 10–13-year-olds).
Two snack patterns were derived for three studies: a meal-like pattern and a beverage pattern. The IMPACT study had a similar meal-like pattern and a dairy/grains pattern. A positive association was observed between meal-like pattern adherence and HEI-2010 score (P for trend < 0⋅01) and snack occasion frequency and HEI-2010 score (β coefficient (95 % CI): NET-Works, 0⋅14 (0⋅04, 0⋅23); GROW, 0⋅12 (0⋅02, 0⋅21)) among younger children. A preference for snacking while using a screen was inversely associated with HEI-2010 score in all studies except IMPACT (β coefficient (95 % CI): NET-Works, −3⋅15 (−5⋅37, −0⋅92); GROW, −2⋅44 (−4⋅27, −0⋅61); GOALS, −5⋅80 (−8⋅74, −2⋅86)). Associations with BMI were almost all null.
Meal-like and beverage patterns described most children’s snack intake, although patterns for non-Hispanic Blacks or adolescents may differ. Diets of 2–5-year-olds may benefit from frequent meal-like pattern snack consumption and diets of all children may benefit from decreasing screen use during eating occasions.