Dietary patterns of adolescent girls attending schools in low-income communities highlight low consumption of core foods

Authors

  • Tracy L. Schumacher,

    1. School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
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    • T.L. Schumacher, BNutr & Diet (Hons), APD, PhD Candidate
  • Deborah L. Dewar,

    1. School of Education, Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
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    • D.L. Dewar, B. HPE, PhD Candidate
  • David R. Lubans,

    1. School of Education, Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
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    • D.R. Lubans, PhD, Associate Professor
  • Philip J. Morgan,

    1. School of Education, Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
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    • P.J. Morgan, PhD, Professor
  • Jane Watson,

    1. School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
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    • J. Watson, PhD, APD, Research Dietitian
  • Maya Guest,

    1. School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
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    • M. Guest, PhD, Lecturer: Occupational Health and Safety
  • Tracy L. Burrows,

    1. School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
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    • T.L. Burrows, PhD APD, Lecturer: Nutrition & Dietetics
  • Robin Callister,

    1. School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
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    • R. Callister, PhD, Professor
  • Clare E. Collins

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
    • Correspondence: C.E. Collins, School of Health Sciences, University of Newcastle, Room HA12, Hunter Building, Callaghan, Newcastle, NSW 2308, Australia. Email: clare.collins@newcastle.edu.au

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    • C.E. Collins, PhD Adv. APD, Professor

Abstract

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.

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