Background: In addition to recommendations about the consumption of specific foods and nutriens, a measure of overall diet quality is useful. Over the years, a number of countries, but not Canada, have developed indexes to evaluate diet quality.
Data and methods: The American Healthy Eating Index was adapted to conform to recommendations in Canada's Food Guide. Data from 33,664 respondents to the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey-Nutrition were used. Usual index scores were calculated with the Software for Intake Distribution Estimation program. Multiple linear regression models were used to examine associations between index scores and various characteristics, particularly the frequency of vegetable and fruit consumption.
Results: For the population aged 2 or older, the average score on the Canadian adaptation of the Healthy Eating Index in 2004 was 58.8 out of a possible 100 points. Children aged 2 to 8 had the highest average scores (65 or more). Average scores tended to fall into early adolescence, stabiilizing around 55 at ages 14 to 30. A gradual upturn thereafter brought the average score to around 60 at age 71 or older. At all ages, women's scores exceeded those of men. The frequency of vegetable and fruit consumption was linked to index scores.
Interpretation: The American Healthy Eating Index can be adapted to Canadian food intake recommendations. Canadian Community Health Survey questions about the frequency of vegetable and fruit consumption can be used as an approximation of diet quality.