OBJECTIVES: To describe energy density (ED; kcal g(-1)) of dietary intake of European children.
METHODS: From 16, 228 children who participated in the IDEFICS (Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health EFfects In Children and infantS) baseline examination, 8551 children with 24-h dietary recalls (24-HDR), with plausible reported energy intakes and complete covariate information were included in the present analysis. ED was calculated using two methods: (1) ED including solid foods (EDF) and (2) ED including solid foods and energy-containing beverages (EDF&B). Beverage energy was calculated in kcal per day. Dietary characteristics and body mass index (BMI) z-score of children aged 2 to 75th percentile. Standardised regression coefficients were estimated to assess the association between dietary characteristics, BMI z-score and ED of the diet.
RESULTS: Children with low EDF and EDF&B diets consumed less energy but higher quantity of food and beverages than children with high EDF and EDF&B diets. Consumption of caloric beverages decreased with increasing EDF&B of the diet owing to the relatively low ED of the beverages, in relation to solid foods. Generally, children with low EDF and EDF&B diets showed healthier food choices than peers with higher EDF and EDF&B diets. In this sample, EDF and EDF&B were not associated with BMI z-score.
CONCLUSION: Health promotion strategies should proclaim lower ED diets by means of foods with high water and low fat content and mainly fruit and vegetable components. Excluding caloric beverages from EDF calculation is a useful method to avoid misinterpretation of true exposure to a high energy dense diet. We recommend excluding caloric beverages from EDF calculation when investigating the effect of ED on a certain (health) outcome.
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