Abstract| Volume 54, ISSUE 7, SUPPLEMENT , S52-S53, July 2022

P074 Diet Quality Trajectories During the Transition to Secondary School: Did COVID-19 Moderate these Changes?

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      The transition from elementary to secondary school is associated with deteriorating dietary habits among adolescents. Growing evidence suggests that COVID-19 has disrupted youth's dietary practices, but whether the pandemic moderated the impact of the transition on adolescents’ diet remains unknown.


      This study examined how adolescents’ diet changed as a result of the transition from elementary to secondary school, and explored whether the pandemic moderated these changes.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants

      This longitudinal study took place between 2018-2021. A total of 669 adolescents completed online 24-hour dietary recalls (ASA24) during elementary school (grade 7), and again in secondary school (grade 8). The first cohort (∼42% of the sample) had both grade 7 and 8 data collected prior to the start of the pandemic (hence, the pre-pandemic cohort). The second cohort had both grade 7 and 8 data collected during the pandemic (the pandemic cohort).

      Measurable Outcome/Analysis

      The Total Healthy Eating Index (HEI) score (an indicator of overall dietary quality) and amounts of food groups (whole fruit, vegetables) were computed. Mixed effect models were used to evaluate transition and pandemic effects, including two-way interaction terms (pandemic X grade) to assess whether the pandemic moderated the impact of the transition on adolescents’ diet.


      Dietary behavior deteriorated as a result of the transition to secondary school, with lower intakes of whole fruit (P = 0.005) and lower HEI scores (P = 0.023). We also found significant pandemic effects regardless of the adolescents’ school year, with the pre-pandemic cohort reporting higher servings of both whole fruit (P = 0.012) and vegetables (P = 0.013) on weekdays compared to the pre-pandemic cohort. No significant interaction effects were found.


      The transition to secondary schools negatively affected adolescents’ dietary behaviors regardless of whether it occurred during or prior to the pandemic. However, some dietary improvements were observed during the pandemic, which might be explained by greater availability of healthier foods at home. Future research should explore how environmental factors shape adolescents’ diet during the school transition.


      Canadian Institutes of Health Research