Background: Diet quality tools have been developed to assess the adequacy of dietary patterns for predicting future morbidity and mortality. This study describes the development and evaluation of a brief food-based diet quality index for use with children at the individual or population level. The Australian Child and Adolescent Recommended Food Score (ACARFS) was developed to reflect adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia and modelled on the approach of the US Recommended Food Score.
Methods: The ACARFS has eight sub-scales and is scored from zero to 73. The diet quality score was evaluated by assessing correlation (Spearman's correlations) and agreement (weighted. statistics) between ACARFS scores and nutrient intakes, derived from a food frequency questionnaire in 691 children (mean age 11.0, SD 1.1) in New South Wales, Australia. Nutrient intakes for ACARFS quartiles were compared with the relevant Australian nutrient reference values.
Results: ACARFS showed slight to substantial agreement (kappa 0.13-0.64) with nutrient intakes, with statistically significant moderate to strong positive correlations with all vitamins, minerals and energy intake (r = 0.42-0.70). ACARFS was not related to BMI. Participants who scored less than the median ACARFS were more likely to have sub-optimal intakes of fibre, folic acid and calcium.
Conclusion: ACARFS demonstrated sufficient accuracy for use in future studies evaluating diet quality. Future research on its utility in targeting improvements in the nutritional quality of usual eating habits of children and adolescents is warranted.