Consumption of 'extra' foods by Australian children: types, quantities and contribution to energy and nutrient intakes

A M Rangan, D Randall, D J Hector, T P Gill, K L Webb
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008, 62 (3): 356-64

OBJECTIVE: To measure the types and quantities of energy-dense, nutrient-poor 'extra' foods consumed by Australian children and adolescents and their contribution to total energy and nutrient intakes.

DESIGN, SETTING AND SUBJECTS: We used data from 3007 children, aged 2-18 years, who participated in the nationally representative 1995 National Nutrition Survey. Intake was determined by 24-h recall and 'extra' foods were defined using principles outlined in the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) and by applying cut points for maximum amounts of fat and sugar within each food category.

RESULTS: All children (99.8%) consumed at least one 'extra' food and the most commonly consumed were margarine, sugar-sweetened soft drinks, cordials and sugar. 'Extra' foods contributed 41% of daily energy intake. Those foods contributing most to energy intake were fried potatoes (4.2%), sugar-sweetened soft drinks (3.3%), ice cream/ice confection (3.1%) and cordials (2.7%). Age and sex were important determinants of 'extra' food intake, with males and older children generally consuming more and different types of, 'extra' foods than females and younger children. 'Extra' foods contributed 19% protein, 47% total fat, 47% saturated fat, 54% sugar, and approximately 20-25% of selected micronutrients to the diet. Calcium and zinc intakes from core foods were below 70% of the recommended dietary intakes for adolescent girls.

CONCLUSIONS: 'Extra' foods are over-consumed at two to four times the recommended limits and contribute excessively to the energy, fat and sugar intakes of Australian children, while providing relatively few micronutrients. This is of concern in terms of children's weight and nutrient status.

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