Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Snack food intake does not predict weight change among children and adolescents


OBJECTIVE: To assess whether intake of snack foods was associated with weight change among children and adolescents.

METHODS: Prospective study of 8203 girls and 6774 boys, 9–14 y of age in 1996, in an ongoing cohort study who completed at least two questionnaires between 1996 and 1999. Intake of snack foods was assessed in 1996–1998 with a validated food frequency questionnaire designed specifically for children and adolescents. The outcome measure was change in age- and gender-specific z-score of body mass index (BMI).

RESULTS: Boys consumed more snack foods than girls during the entire study period. After controlling for Tanner stage of development, age, height change, activity, and inactivity, there was no relation between intake of snack foods and subsequent changes in BMI z-score among the boys (β=−0.004), but snack foods had a weak inverse association (β=−0.007, P<0.05) with weight change among the girls. However, the results were confounded by dieting status, which had a significant positive independent association with BMI change. After controlling for dieting status and whether the mother was overweight, the association between servings per day of snack foods and subsequent changes in BMI z-score were not significant in either gender.

DISCUSSION: Our results suggest that although snack foods may have low nutritional value, they were not an important independent determinant of weight gain among children and adolescents.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Ogden CL, Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Johnson CL . Prevalence and trends in overweight among US children and adolescents, 1999–2000. JAMA 2002; 288: 1728–1732.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Jahns L, Siega-Riz AM, Popkin BM . The increasing prevalence of snacking among US children from 1977 to 1996. J Pediatr 2001; 138: 493–498.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Nicklas TA, Yang SJ, Baranowski T, Zakeri I, Berenson G . Eating patterns and obesity in children. The Bogalusa Heart Study. Am J Prev Med 2003; 25: 9–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Francis LA, Lee Y, Birch LL . Parental weight status and girls’ television viewing, snacking, and body mass indexes. Obes Res 2003; 11: 143–151.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Phillips SM, Bandini LG, Naumova EN, Cyr H, Colclough S, Dietz WH, Must A . Consumption of high-calorie, low-nutrient-dense foods over the adolescent period: relationship to body weight and fatness in a longitudinal setting. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2004; 12: 461–472.

    Google Scholar 

  6. French SA, Story M, Fulkerson JA, Gerlach AF . Food environment in secondary schools: a la carte, vending machines, and food policies and practices. Am J Public Health 2003; 93: 1161–1168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Field AE, Camargo Jr CA, Taylor CB, Berkey CS, Roberts SB, Colditz GA . Peer, parent, and media influences on the development of weight concerns and frequent dieting among preadolescent and adolescent girls and boys. Pediatrics 2001; 107: 54–60.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. CDC Growth Charts: United States. 2000, In.

  9. Rockett HR, Breitenbach M, Frazier AL, Witschi J, Wolf AM, Field AE, Colditz GA . Validation of a youth/adolescent food frequency questionnaire. Prev Med 1997; 26: 808–816.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Rockett HR, Wolf AM, Colditz GA . Development and reproducibility of a food frequency questionnaire to assess diets of older children and adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc 1995; 95: 336–340.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. US Department of Agriculture. Handbook No. 8: composition of foods. US Department of Agriculture: Washington; 1976–1992.

  12. Pao E, Fleming K, Guenther P, Mickle S, NFCS (Nationwide Food Consumption Survey). Foods commonly eaten by individuals: amount per day and per eating occasion. US Govt. Printing Office: Washington; 1982. (Home Economics Research Report No. 441).

  13. Kann L, Warren CW, Harris WA, Collins JL, Williams BI, Ross JG, Kolbe LJ . Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 1995. MMWR CDC Surveill Summ 1996; 45: 1–84.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL . Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. Lancet 2001; 357: 505–508.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Lewis CE, Smith DE, Wallace DD, Williams OD, Bild DE, Jacobs Jr DR . Seven-year trends in body weight and associations with lifestyle and behavioral characteristics in black and white young adults: the CARDIA study. Am J Public Health 1997; 87: 635–642.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Berkey CS, Rockett HR, Field AE, Gillman MW, Frazier AL, Camargo Jr CA, Colditz GA . Activity, dietary intake, and weight changes in a longitudinal study of preadolescent and adolescent boys and girls. Pediatrics 2000; 105: E56.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Ludwig DS, Majzoub JA, Al-Zahrani A, Dallal GE, Blanco I, Roberts SB . High glycemic index foods, overeating, and obesity. Pediatrics 1999; 103: E26.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Shannon B, Smiciklas-Wright H, Wang MQ . Inaccuracies in self-reported weights and heights of a sample of sixth-grade children. J Am Diet Assoc 1991; 91: 675–678.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Strauss RS . Comparison of measured and self-reported weight and height in a cross-sectional sample of young adolescents. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1999; 23: 904–908.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Goodman E, Hinden BR, Khandelwal S . Accuracy of teen and parental reports of obesity and body mass index. Pediatrics 2000; 106 (Part 1): 52–58.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank Nan Laird for her comments and suggestions on analytic issues. The analysis was supported by a Special Interest Project Grant (U48-CCU115807) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Boston Obesity Nutrition Research Center (DK 46200), research grants (DK-46834 and HL-68401) from the National Institutes of Health, and the Kellogg Company.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to A E Field.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Field, A., Austin, S., Gillman, M. et al. Snack food intake does not predict weight change among children and adolescents. Int J Obes 28, 1210–1216 (2004).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


This article is cited by


Quick links