Development of a nutritious, acceptable and affordable snack food to prevent obesity in children

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du Plessis, Rachel Magdalena
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Background: Approximately 45% of South Africans are overweight, including 20% of children under six years of age. Snack foods are now targeted in the food industry, globally, as an obesity prevention initiative, focusing on children to ensure the adoption of a healthy lifestyle from an early age. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine the nutritional status and snack consumption patterns of children (n=290) 9 to 13 years old in the Vaal Region at two purposively selected primary schools in order to develop a healthy snack food item that will address obesity in children from a very young age. Methods: A baseline survey included a pre-tested questionnaire, administered by trained fieldworkers to determine snack food consumption patterns. Anthropometric measurements included weight and height. A snack food item was developed to meet certain criteria identified from the literature and baseline survey. The methods included: snack food development and preparation, chemical analyses to determine actual content, microbiological tests to determine shelf life and sensory analyses to determine acceptability. Study design: Cross-sectional analytical study. Data analyses: Data of the questionnnaires were captured and analysed for descriptive statistics (frequencies, means and standard deviations). The anthropometric data were captured and analysed using the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for 2007. Results: The results showed that the children in the sample knew the meaning of healthy snacks, although the majority (66.8%) consumed unhealthy snacks, especially from school tuck shops. The top ten snack foods most commonly consumed daily were: coffee (48.3%), tea (46.1%), crispy chips (39.1%), fruit juice (38.0%), chicken (35.1%), fried potato chips (33.6%), carbonated drinks (26.9%), biscuits (26.2%), toffees (26.2%) and yoghurt (25.8%). The majority (56.8%) of the respondents indicated that they receive between R2 and R5 per week for tuck shop money, besides their monthly pocket money (64.6%). Most of the respondents (45.4%) spend their pocket money on snack food items and these are mainly consumed while watching television (36.9%) and when bored (29.5%). The anthropometric results indicated that 11.7% of the group were underweight, 12.1% of the group were stunted; in addition 20% were at risk of underweight, and 23.4% at risk of being stunted. A significantly higher percentage of girls (16.81) were stunted compared with the boys (5.0%). Also 7.6% of the group were overweight. More girls were overweight compared with boys. A snack food item was developed to address obesity in this region. The criteria met were that it was affordable, at cost of R0.55 per 30g portion, was low in fat and had high-density nutritional value, with at least 20% of the DRI for protein and iron, had a shelf life of 28 days and was generally acceptable to the majority of the respondents. Conclusion and recommendations: This study showed that obesity is becoming a problem amongst children in the Vaal Region. Although primary school children knew healthy snack foods, their behaviour indicated a large consumption of unhealthy snack foods. A low-fat, low-energy, low-cost and acceptable snack food item was successfully developed to address the obesity problem in the region. Further research is recommended where this snack food item is implemented in an intervention study to measure its impact on the nutritional status of obese primary school children.
Thesis (M. Tech. Dept. of Hospitality, Tourism and PR Management)--Vaal University of Technology, 2009.
Obesity in children--Prevention, Healthy snacks for children, Snacking patterns in children, Tuck shops, Primary school children--Snacking patterns