Public Health Nutrition

Special groups

What children eat during afternoons and evenings: is it important?

Jennifer E Rockella1, Paula ML Skidmorea1, Winsome R Parnella1 c1 and Noela Wilsona1

a1 Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand


Objective To complete a description of the dietary intakes of New Zealand schoolchildren by describing afternoon and evening foods and nutrients.

Design Twenty-four hour dietary recall data from the 2002 Children's Nutrition Survey were analysed to describe food and nutrient intakes during the afternoon (14.00 to 16.59 hours) and evening (17.00 to 23.59 hours).

Setting New Zealand homes and schools.

Subjects Children (n 2875) aged 5–14 years.

Results Most children consumed something during the afternoon (79 %) and evening (98 %). Children were less likely to consume something during non-school day afternoons; if 11–14 years of age; and when of Pacific ethnicity. Afternoon food consumers had higher daily intakes for most nutrients. Afternoon intake accounted for much of this difference. In the afternoon, children consumed fruit (26 %) and biscuits/crackers (21 %). Evening eating contributed to daily intakes of energy (40 %), fat (43 %), carbohydrate (35 %), sucrose (20 %), glucose (24 %), vitamin A (47 %), Ca (26 %) and Fe (40 %). Children aged 5–6 years consumed a lower proportion of their daily energy intake during the evening than older children. In the evening, just one-third of children consumed vegetables (45 % if including potato/kumara/taro), 19 % fruit and 17 % ate hot chips. Children were more likely to consume vegetables if they also consumed potato/kumara/taro. Twenty-three per cent of children had powdered drinks/cordials, 21 % had soft drinks and 19 % had milk.

Conclusions Consuming foods/drinks in the afternoon positively influenced macronutrient distribution, increasing the carbohydrate proportion. During the evening 40 % of energy intake was consumed but less than one-half of children consumed vegetables; thus inclusion of vegetables in the evening is important, particularly in meals without potato/kumara/taro.

(Received June 02 2010)

(Accepted September 21 2010)

(Online publication December 08 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Email