Objectives: This study aimed to evaluate the food intake patterns of adolescents with respect to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, and to examine variations in food intake patterns by age, gender and region of residence.
Design: Cross-sectional online food survey administered through schools.
Participants and setting: In 2004-2005, 3841 secondary students in years seven (12-13 years) and nine (14-15 years) drawn from 37 secondary schools in Victoria, Australia completed an online food intake patterns survey.
Outcome measures: Food intake was measured by a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), and categorized according to the five basic food groups (fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, cereal) and the 'extra' food group as defined by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE). The foods groups were examined in the study population and compared across age, gender and region.
Results: Many adolescents in this sample reported food intakes that deviated substantially from recommendations of the AGHE. For example, two-thirds of participants failed to consume foods from the five recommended food groups daily; over a third reported eating fruit 'rarely or never'; and 22% reported eating fast foods every day. Food intakes were generally more in line with dietary guidelines among girls than boys. Regional differences were less consistent, and there were few differences by age.
Conclusion: A significant proportion of adolescents have food intakes that fall short of the recommendations outlined in the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. This highlights the need for public health initiatives to promote healthier food intake patterns among adolescents.