Public health nutrition
OBJECTIVE:To evaluate daily eating frequency (main meals and snacks) in relation to weight status in children aged 3-9 years, representative of the Portuguese population. DESIGN:Cross-sectional study. Dietary intake was estimated as the mean of two non-consecutive days of food diaries, followed by face-to-face interviews. Weight and height were measured by trained observers. Eating occasions (EO) were defined by the children's caregiver; an EO was considered separate if the time of consumption was different from other EO and it provided at least 209 kJ (50 kcal). Main meals defined as 'breakfast', 'lunch' and 'dinner' could be selected only once per day. The remaining EO were considered snacks. The association between eating frequency and overweight/obesity was evaluated through logistic regressions weighted for the population distribution. SETTING:National Food, Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey of the Portuguese population, 2015-2016. PARTICIPANTS:Portuguese children aged 3-9 years with complete dietary data and anthropometric measurements (n 517). RESULTS:Overall, the number of daily EO ranged from 3·5 to 11, and on average children had 5·7 daily EO. After adjustment for child's sex, age and total energy intake, and considering only plausible energy intake reporters, having < 3 snacks/d was positively associated with being overweight/obese (OR = 1·98; 95 % CI 1·00, 3·90), compared with having ≥ 3 snacks/d. CONCLUSIONS:Lower daily frequency of EO was associated with increased odds of being overweight or obese in children. A higher eating frequency, maintaining the same energy intake, seems to contribute to a healthy body weight in children.
Year of publication: 2019