Background: Adolescence presents an opportunity to influence diet, which impacts present and future health outcomes, yet adolescent diets globally are poorly understood.
Objective: We generate evidence on adolescent diets globally and explore patterns and trends by subpopulation.
Methods: We estimated mean frequency of consumption and prevalence of less-than-daily fruit and vegetable consumption, at-least-daily carbonated beverage consumption, and at-least-weekly fast-food consumption among school-going adolescents aged primarily 12 to 17 years from the Global School-based Student Health Surveys in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Latin America between 2008 and 2015. Random-effects meta-analysis was used to pool estimates globally and by subgroup.
Results: On average, adolescents consumed fruit 1.43 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.26–1.60) times per day, vegetables 1.75 (1.58–1.92) times per day, carbonated soft drinks 0.99 (0.77–1.22) times per day, and fast food 1.05 (0.78–1.32) times per week. Overall, 34.5% (95% CI 29.4–39.7) consumed fruit less than once per day, 20.6% (15.8–25.9) consumed vegetables less than once per day, 42.8% (35.2–50.7) drank carbonated soft drinks at least once per day, and 46.1% (38.6–53.7) consumed fast food at least once per week. Mean daily frequency of fruit consumption was particularly low in South and East Asia (1.30 [1.02–1.58]); carbonated soft drink consumption high in Latin America (1.54 [1.31–1.78]), high-income countries (1.66 [1.29–2.03]), and modern food system typologies (1.44 [0.75–2.12]); and mean weekly fast food consumption high in mixed food system typologies (1.29 [0.88–1.71]).
Conclusions: School-going adolescents infrequently consume fruits and vegetables and frequently consume carbonated soft drinks, but there is wide variability by subpopulation.