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Keywords:

  • adolescence;
  • Healthy Eating Index;
  • school children

Abstract

Background

With an established, yet avoidable, link between dietary intake and poor health, the nutritional habits of adolescents remains a public health concern. Previous studies report an inverse relationship between dietary intake and socio-economic status (SES), although few studies have considered the influence of the SES gradient. The present study compared the nutritional profiles of neighbouring schools with pupils from middle to high economic backgrounds.

Methods

One hundred and ninety pupils from a high SES school (HSESS) and 159 pupils from a middle SES school (MSESS) (aged 11–12 years) completed a 63-item validated food frequency questionnaire. Pupils rated their diet quality and this was compared with a composite Healthy Eating Index (HEI).

Results

Children attending MSESS consumed significantly higher intakes of energy (P < 0.001), carbohydrate (P = 0.001), fat (P < 0.001) and protein (P = 0.001). As a percentage of energy contribution, pupils in both schools consumed excess saturated fat (HSESS, +5% boys, +4% girls; MSESS, +4% both boys and girls) and sugar (HSESS, +9% boys, +11% girls; MSESS, +10% boys, +11% girls). When HEI was compared with self-report diet quality, 96% HSESS pupils and 94% MSESS pupils over-rated the quality of their diet.

Conclusions

The present study identified that, although pupils from MSESS consume a significantly higher intake of energy and macronutrient compared to a nearby HSESS, the percentage of energy contribution of saturated fat and sugar is above government recommendations for pupils from both schools. Additionally, the majority of pupils from both schools substantially over-rated their diet quality compared to a HEI.