Associations between eating occasion characteristics and age, gender, presence of children and BMI Among U.S. adults

Marla Reicks, Dennis Degeneffe, Aaron Rendahl, Marianne Smith Edge, Katie Burns, Brian O’Meara, Greg Blevins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe how frequency and characteristics of traditional meal and non-meal occasions vary by age, gender, presence of children, and body mass index (BMI). Design: A cross-sectional survey was administered to a national demographically balanced sample of adults via an online market research panel. Setting: Online survey. Subjects: Survey respondentswere in the 18- to 80-year-old age range and had consumed any food or beverage at home or away from home the previous day. The sample included 2702 adults reporting on 6689 eating/drinking occasions. Most (80.3%) had no children at home; 43.5% were male and about two thirds were overweight/obese. Measures of outcome: Eating occasion characteristics and goals by age, gender, presence of children, and BMI. Results: Older respondents were more likely to report planning traditional meal occasions and report on a breakfast occasion than younger respondents. Two prominent reasons that triggered consumption occasions were habit and hunger/thirst with one dominant benefit of satisfying hunger or thirst. Habit and nutrition played a larger role as a goal for eating occasions for older compared to younger respondents. When children were present in the household, respondents had a goal of connecting with “family, friends, or colleagues” at dinner compared to those without children. Few gender differences were noted; however, women more often reported goals of satisfying hunger/thirst and taste at lunch than men. BMI levels were related to a range of triggers, goals, and behaviors but not as prominently as the relationships observed with age. Those with BMI ≥ 30 were less health conscious regarding dinner and breakfast consumption compared to those with a lower BMI. Conclusions: Among demographic variables, age differences were noted in relation to eating occasion characteristics more often than other demographic characteristics or BMI. Understanding these differences can be beneficial in tailoring promotion of healthful intake at specific eating occasions for particular subgroups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-327
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American College of Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 20 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American College of Nutrition.


  • Diets
  • General nutrition
  • Obesity
  • Pediatric and geriatric considerations
  • Preventative nutrition and chronic disease


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