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Volume 30, no. 4, September 2010

Executive Summary — Meals and snacks consumed by young Quebecers

In June 2010, the Institut de la statistique du Québec, in collaboration with Brigitte Bédard and Lise Dubois of the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Population Health published Les jeunes québécois à table : regard sur les repas et collations,1 its second report based on analysis of the data from Statistics Canada’s 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey – Nutrition. This publication looks at important facets of the diet of Quebec children and adolescents (1 to 18 years old): meals, snacks and consumption of food prepared outside the home.

The results point to several problems with the young people’s diet. The report reveals, among other things, that approximately 14% of Quebec children and adolescents (nearly 20% of the 9-18 year-olds) skipped at least one meal during the day. Skipping a meal is not without nutritional consequences. Lower average intakes of several nutrients were observed in young people who skipped at least one meal during the day, compared with those who ate three meals. This was the case, for example, for proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, calcium and vitamins C and D in girls 14 to 18 years old. Such results suggest that, when a meal is skipped, it is more difficult to obtain a level of nutritional intake equivalent to that obtained by eating three meals, even if snacks are eaten. Thus, young people who skip a meal may have more difficulty meeting their needs for certain nutrients.

That said, consuming food or beverages between meals is a very popular practice among young Quebecers. Depending on age and sex, between 54% and 73% of children and adolescents consumed at least three snacks during the day. Dietary intakes between meals contributes to over one fifth or even one quarter of the daily energy intake, i.e. slightly more than breakfast, which accounts for between 17% and 21% of energy intake.

In terms of content, the analyses reveal that the snacks consumed are often foods that are less nutritious and that are higher in sugar, fat or salt, particularly among 14-18 year-olds. The “Other foods” category (not belonging to the four Food Guide groups) accounts for as much as 48% of the energy intake from snacks in this age group.

A relatively large proportion of Quebec children and adolescents consume food pre­pared outside the home: 39% of 4-8 year-olds, 45% of 9-13 year-olds and 57% of 14-18 year-olds, for a given day. Moreover, foods from fast food restaurants were consumed by 11% of 4-8-year-olds, 16% of 9-13 year-olds and 28% of 14-18 year-olds. Nutritionally, consuming fast food was associated with a lower-quality diet. For example, among boys 14 to 18 years old, the results reveal that having consumed foods from fast food restaurants, compared to foods prepared exclusively at home, is associated with higher average intakes of energy, fat and saturated fats.

At a time when the vision for healthy eating2 proposed by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec is emphasizing the overall food environment, these results confirm the importance of taking action on the food supply to which young people are exposed.

The publication Les jeunes québécois à table: regard sur les repas et collations is available on the Web site of the Institut de la statistique du Québec. It complements the dietary and nutritional portrait of young people, L’alimentation des jeunes québécois: un premier tour de table,3 published in 2008.

The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) – Nutrition is a large national survey with two separate and complementary components: a general health component and a dietary component. The dietary data were collected by means of a complete questionnaire on foods and drinks consumed during a 24-hour period, the day before the interview (24-hour dietary recall). The results presented in the (ISQ) publications are based on 2014 respondents 1 to 18 years old.


  1. ^ Bédard B, Dubois L, Baraldi R, Plante N, et al. Les jeunes québécois à table : regard sur les repas et collations [Internet]. Québec, QC: Institut de la statistique du Québec; 2010 Jun [cited on June 29, 2010]. Available from:
  2. ^ Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux. Vision de la saine alimentation : pour la création d'environnements alimentaires favorables à la santé [Internet]. 2010 Mar [cited on June 29, 2010]. Available from : accueil&PHPSESSID=2aba5b2c8f8fa0e29873b73f0554b262
  3. ^ Bédard B, Dubois L, Baraldi R, Plante N, et al. L'alimentation des jeunes québécois : un premier tour de table [Internet]. Québec, QC: Institut de la statistique du Québec; 2008 Oct [cited on June 29, 2010]. Available from :


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