UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Examining school day dietary quality : an analysis of national dietary data from the 2004 and 2015 Canadian Community Health Surveys Tugault-Lafleur, Claire


Schools have the potential to contribute to obesity prevention by promoting healthy eating and physical activity. Since 2004, ten Canadian provinces have created policies regarding foods and beverages that can be offered in schools, yet little is known about what Canadian children eat and drink at school, the sources of the foods and beverages consumed, and how children’s dietary quality has changed, if at all, over the last decade. Drawing from nationally representative dietary surveys, this thesis includes three studies aimed at filling knowledge gaps regarding Canadian children’s dietary quality on school days. The first study characterised the dietary contributions of foods consumed during school hours relative to the overall diet, and sociodemographic factors associated with school hour dietary quality. In 2004, children age 6-17 years consumed approximately one-third of their daily calories during school hours, but energy-adjusted intake of milk products and key nutrients (for example, calcium and vitamin D) was relatively lower during school hours compared to non-school hours. Meanwhile, the school hour contribution from minimally nutritious foods was higher than the average school hour energy contribution. Differences in diet quality scores were poorly explained by sociodemographic factors, although school hour dietary quality differed by age group and province of residence. The second study evaluated associations between lunch-time food source and children’s dietary quality. In 2004, 73% of children reported bringing lunch from home, with few students obtaining lunch off-campus or at school. Children consuming foods from home had more favourable nutrient intake profiles compared to children obtaining foods off-campus. However, regardless of lunch-time food source, the quality of foods consumed was, on average, sub-optimal in relation to national dietary guidance. The third study assessed changes in dietary quality of Canadian children from 2004 to 2015. Average self-reported dietary quality of Canadian children during school hours and on school days improved modestly but remained below national dietary standards. More effective efforts are needed to improve Canadian children’s dietary quality. Initiatives that focus on increasing the consumption of vegetables, whole fruit, whole grains and dairy products have the potential to improve Canadian children’s dietary quality.

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