Background: Pacific youth (aged 16-24y) living in New Zealand (NZ) are at high risk of developing obesity. As part of an over-arching cross-sectional study, we investigated eating habits and diet quality of Pacific youth.
Design: Structured questionnaires were developed and implemented (n=30) using face-to-face interviews. Eating habits, meal patterns, food choices and related cultural and social influences were explored qualitatively. Dietary diversity (food groups) and variety (foods) were explored using a Pacific-focused dietary diversity questionnaire. Eating habits data were analysed using a content analysis approach reflecting meal patterns and food consumption trends. A scoring method was used to capture dietary diversity scores (DDS)(26 food groups: 15 nutritious; 11 discretionary) and food variety scores (FVS)(227 foods: 129 nutritious; 98 discretionary).
Outcomes: A two-meals/day eating pattern was observed; breakfast skipping was apparent. Snacking frequency were higher amongst meal skippers. High availability of discretionary foods, cost, convenience and cultural values around food consumption all contributed to poor food choice and overeating at social occasions. The mean total, nutritious and discretionary DDS over seven days was 23.1, 14.3 and 8.83 groups respectively and FVS was 91, 51.7 and 39.3 foods respectively.
Conclusion: Eating habit assessment identified the barriers experienced by Pacific youth influencing their current diet quality. Despite a large dietary variety, nutritious foods contributed only moderately to diet quality, whilst discretionary foods expanded dietary energy density. These observations explain, at least in part, the increased risk of developing obesity and could guide future interventions.
Funding: NZ HRC and Ministry of Health Partnership Grant.