Aim: Overweight and obesity prevalence is high among adolescent girls of low socioeconomic position and this increases their risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders in adulthood. The aim of this present study was to describe the dietary patterns of adolescent girls in terms of the relative contribution of core food groups to overall diet and by weight status category. Methods: Year 8 female students were recruited from schools in low-income communities. Weight status (i.e. underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese) was determined using age- and sex-adjusted body mass index (BMI; z score). Dietary intakes were assessed using a validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Individual foods were collated into core food group or energy-dense, nutrient-poor categories in line with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) and the percentage contribution to total energy intake calculated. Results: Participants (n = 332) were (mean ± SD) 13.7 ± 0.4 years old with BMI z score 0.63 ± 1.22. Few girls met AGHE core food group recommendations for daily serves; meat and substitutes 69.3%, vegetables 28.6%, fruit 23.8%, dairy 15.7% and breads/cereals 5.7%. Total percentage energy derived from energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods was 46.6% (37.2–54.6%) (median (interquartile range)), with takeaways 9.8% (7.0–13.6%), confectionery 7.0% (4.1–10.9%) and packaged snacks 6.8% (4.0–10.7%), with no significant differences by weight status. Conclusions: Core food intakes are poor with excessive consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods in these adolescent girls. Nutrition education programs targeting this population are needed to address this imbalance. Strategies could include substitution of unhealthy snacks for core food items and greater inclusion of core foods within main meals.
Nutrition and Dietetics Vol. 71, Issue 2, p. 127-134