1 Nestlé Research Center, Lausanne, Switzerland; 2 Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, United States.
Background: Increasing obesity among Mexican children has created a need to identify dietary determinants of excess energy intake. Yet, little is known about the dietary behaviors of Mexican children with regard to frequency, amount, and food groups consumed, and impact on total daily energy intake, especially as children age. Objective: The objectives of this study were to 1) describe energy and top foods consumed across eating occasions; 2) examine key eating occasions or total eating occasions that were associated with increased total daily energy intake; and 3) examine whether these associations differed between 2-5 year-old and 6-13 year-old Mexican children. Methods: We used a nationally representative sample of 5,031 children from the 2012 Encuesta Nacional de Salud y Nutrición (ENSANUT) to examine percent consumers, per capita mean energy intake, and top food groups contributing to meals and snacks. We used multivariate linear regression to examine the association between key eating occasions (including total meals and snacks) and total eating occasions with total daily energy intake for 2-5 year-olds and 6-13 year-olds. Results: We found that although eating patterns were similar across age-groups (per capita mean intake of 3 meals and 1.4 to 1.6 snacks/day), each additional eating occasion was associated with increased total daily energy intake for older but not younger children. In both age groups, snacking was highly prevalent (75% and 68% for 2-5 year-olds vs. 6-13 year-olds, respectively), and top food contributors to snacks included fruit, salty snacks, candy, and cookies. Among older children, whole milk consumed as a snack was replaced with soda and sweetened fruit drinks. Conclusions: Snacks represent an area for potential improvement in the diets of Mexican children, especially among children ages 6-13 years, for whom each additional snack or eating occasion was linked to higher energy intake.