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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006 Apr;60(4):494-501.

Snacks as an element of energy intake and food consumption.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, Nutrition Unit, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland.



An increasing frequency of snacks has been observed in meal pattern studies. Snacks can alter the diet because of their high-energy density and low-nutrient content or on the contrary.


The prominence of snacks in energy intake and food consumption was assessed.


Dietary data were collected for 2007 adults by using a computer-assisted 48-h dietary recall in the national FINDIET 2002 survey. Energy intakes and food consumption were aggregated for snacks and for main meals.


Daily energy was mostly derived from main meals comprising traditional mixed dishes, milk and bread. However, a snack-dominating meal pattern was observed in 19% of men and 24% of women. This meal pattern was associated with urbanization in both genders and with physical work in men. Higher sucrose intake and lower intake of micronutrients were typical of the snack-dominating meal pattern compared to the others.


As snacks appear to have a higher energy density and a lower content of micronutrients than main meals, a snack-dominating meal pattern is inadvisable. However, further studies are needed to examine the association between meal pattern and health status.

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