Offer children healthier snacks in lower quantities to reduce obesity, researchers say

Jack Woodfield
Mon, 22 Jul 2019
Offer children healthier snacks in lower quantities to reduce obesity, researchers say
Offering children fewer varieties of unhealthy snacks and instead providing low-sugar snacks can help to prevent weight gain, Australian researchers report.

The scientists from Australia’s Murdoch Children's Research Institute have called for parents and schools to limit the amount of snacks, particularly high-sugar snacks, given to children over fears they could be fuelling higher obesity rates. They added that the presentation of snacks had little impact on the amount consumed by youngsters.

Low sugar snacks include raw vegetables, nuts, berries and cheese, while higher-sugar snacks include milk chocolate, biscuits and cakes.

"Our research indicates that more attention and resources should be directed to toward offering children smaller amounts of food and, specifically, fewer and less variety of energy-dense foods and pre-packaged items," said lead author Dr Jessica Kerr. "Interventions should not solely invest in reducing dishware size in the expectation that this will lead to reduced intake of snack foods."

The researchers reviewed 1,299 children aged 11 to 12 and compared the impact of snacking on youngsters with their parents, with 1,274 mums and dads taking part.

The participants ate foods during a 15-minute snack break while they were in the middle of completing 20 other health assessments. A snack box with non-perishable items including cheese, biscuits, crackers and a muesli bar as well as peaches and chocolate was given to the children and parents.

The variety of items, their size and quantity were different in each box and the youngsters and their parents ate the foods separately as well as at different times.

Food consumption was driven by the quantity and variety of snacks on offer. "Children who were offered more snack items consumed considerably more energy and a slightly higher food mass. Manipulating box/container size had little effect on consumption," added Dr Kerr.

The results showed that the impact of snacking on adults was limited, although Dr Kerr suggested the adults could have been influenced by the fact that they knew they were being observed.

This research was published in the International Journal of Obesity.
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