Objective: Since inadequate food consumption patterns during adolescence are not only linked with the occurrence of obesity in youth but also with the subsequent risk of developing diseases in adulthood, the establishment and maintenance of a healthy diet early in life is of great public health importance. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to describe and evaluate the food consumption of a well-characterized sample of European adolescents against food-based dietary guidelines for the first time.
Design: The HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) Study is a cross-sectional study, whose main objective was to obtain comparable data on a variety of nutritional and health-related parameters in adolescents aged 12·5-17·5 years.
Setting: Ten cities in Europe.
Subjects: The initial sample consisted of more than 3000 European adolescents. Among these, 1593 adolescents (54 % female) had sufficient and plausible dietary data on energy and food intakes from two 24 h recalls using the HELENA-DIAT software.
Results: Food intake of adolescents in Europe is not optimal compared with the two food-based dietary guidelines, Optimized Mixed Diet and Food Guide Pyramid, examined in this study. Adolescents eat half of the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables and less than two-thirds of the recommended amount of milk (and milk products), but consume much more meat (and meat products), fats and sweets than recommended. However, median total energy intake may be estimated to be nearly in line with the recommendations.
Conclusion: The results urge the need to improve the dietary habits of adolescents in order to maintain health in later life.