Number and Type of Meals consumed by Children in a Subset of Schools in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Alan M. Preston, Natalie Rodríguez-Quintana


Objective: Eating patterns of children have been investigated in the U.S. and have been found to be changeable over extended time periods. Trends can be correlated to changes in the same periods for determinants of overall health such as body mass index (BMI). In Puerto Rico, there have been no such studies so similar correlations cannot be done. Herein, we present baseline information on the number and types of eating occasions in a convenience sample of children from the area of San Juan so that future changes in patterns can be monitored over time. Methods: Multiple 24 hour recall questionnaires were administered to school children at 3 different grade levels. Number of eating occasions and type of meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) were quantified. Factors considered for analysis were age, gender and BMI of the children, participation in the School Lunch Program (SLP) and if meals were eaten on a weekday or weekend day. Results: Approximately 40% of children were categorized as overweight. There was a trend toward fewer eating occasions in older vs. younger children and fewer eating occasions on weekend days vs. weekdays. Lunch and dinner were consumed more frequently than breakfast and participants in the SLP had more eating occasions than non-participants. Conclusion: The number of eating occasions in Puerto Rican youth is maintained at about 5 for weekdays and about 4.5 per day for weekend days with a trend toward fewer meals as a function of increasing age. This data can be used as baseline information in future studies that wish to correlate changes in dietary patterns with health.


Meal-type, eating occasions, Puerto Rican schoolchildren

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