Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Diet quality, nutrition and physical activity among adolescents: the Web-SPAN (Web-Survey of Physical Activity and Nutrition) project

Kate E Storeya1 c1, Laura E Forbesa1, Shawn N Frasera2, John C Spencea3, Ronald C Plotnikoffa3a4, Kim D Rainea4, Rhona M Hanninga5 and Linda J McCargara1

a1 Alberta Institute for Human Nutrition, Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, 4–10 Agriculture/Forestry Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2P5

a2 Centre for Nursing and Health Studies, Athabasca University, Athabasca, Alberta, Canada

a3 Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

a4 Centre for Health Promotion Studies, School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

a5 Department of Health Studies and Gerontology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada


Objective To assess the overall diet quality of a sample of adolescents living in Alberta, Canada, and evaluate whether diet quality, nutrient intakes, meal behaviours (i.e. meal skipping and consuming meals away from home) and physical activity are related.

Design A cross-sectional study design. Students completed the self-administered Web-Survey of Physical Activity and Nutrition (Web-SPAN). Students were classified as having poor, average or superior diet quality based on Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating (CFGHE).

Setting One hundred and thirty-six schools (37 %) within forty-four public and private school boards (75 %) in Alberta, Canada.

Subjects Grade 7 to 10 Alberta students (n 4936) participated in the school-based research.

Results On average, students met macronutrient requirements; however, micronutrient and fibre intakes were suboptimal. Median CFGHE food group intakes were below recommendations. Those with poor diet quality (42 %) had lower intakes of protein, fibre and low-calorie beverages; higher intakes of carbohydrates, fat and Other Foods (e.g. foods containing mostly sugar, high-salt/fat foods, high-calorie beverages, low-calorie beverages and high-sugar/fat foods); a lower frequency of consuming breakfast and a higher frequency of consuming meals away from home; and a lower level of physical activity when compared with students with either average or superior diet quality.

Conclusions Alberta adolescents were not meeting minimum CFGHE recommendations, and thus had suboptimal intakes and poor diet quality. Suboptimal nutritional intakes, meal behaviours and physical inactivity were all related to poor diet quality and reflect the need to target these health behaviours in order to improve diet quality and overall health and wellness.

(Received August 25 2008)

(Accepted April 29 2009)

(Online publication June 23 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email