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Snacking practices from infancy to adolescence: parental perspectives from longitudinal lived experience research in England

Gallagher Squires, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-6664-3290, Coleman, P. ORCID: 0000-0002-1073-7394, Reynolds, C. & Isaacs, A. ORCID: 0000-0001-5135-232X (2023). Snacking practices from infancy to adolescence: parental perspectives from longitudinal lived experience research in England. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, pp. 1-9. doi: 10.1017/s0029665123003592


Consumption of snacks and ultra-processed foods (UPF) high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) is associated with rising rates of obesity and growing socioeconomic disparities in nutrition. While infancy, childhood and adolescence are critical periods for development of dietary preferences, there remains a dearth of research exploring factors that underpin snacking behaviour over this time. This review paper aims to addresses this gap by drawing from qualitative lived experience research, with 122 families of different socio-economic position (SEP), to explore how the (i) home food environment, (ii) food environment and (iii) social value and meanings of food shapes parental provision of snacks. This review shows that snacking holds important meanings in everyday family life, with infants integrated into existing snacking practices from an early age. Price promotions, low-cost and long shelf-lives all make UPF and HFSS snacks an appealing option for many low SEP parents; while children’s requests and preferences for HFSS snacks present a challenge across SEPs. However, higher-SEP parents can ensure fresh fruits are always available as an alternative snack, while fruit is described as a financially risky expenditure for low-SEP families. Our findings also indicate that retailers and producers are increasingly promoting ‘healthier’ snacks through product packaging and marketing, such as ‘meets one of your five a day’, despite these products displaying similar nutritional profiles as traditional UPF and HFSS snacks. We outline a series of policy recommendations, including extending Healthy Start Vouchers and the Fruit and Vegetable Scheme in schools and action to address misleading product marketing and packaging.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited. Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Nutrition Society
Publisher Keywords: Food policy; food environments; snacking practices; ultra-processed food, childhood nutrition, obesity
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
SWORD Depositor:
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