Healthful dietary habits are individually associated with better nutrient intake and positive health outcomes; however, this information is rarely examined together to validate an indicator of diet quality. This study developed a 15-item Healthy Dietary Habits Index (HDHI) based on self-reported dietary habits information collected in the 2008/09 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey. The validity of HDHI as a diet quality index was examined in relation to sociodemographic factors, 24-diet recall derived nutrient intakes, and nutritional biomarkers in a representative sample of adults aged 19 years and above. Linear regression models were employed to determine associations between HDHI quintiles and energy-adjusted nutrient data and nutritional biomarkers. Significantly higher HDHI scores were found among women, older age groups, Non-Māori or Pacific ethnic groups, and less socioeconomically-deprived groups (all p
< 0.001). Increasing quintiles of HDHI were associated with higher intakes of dietary fibre and seven micronutrients including calcium, iron, and vitamin C, and lower intakes of energy, macronutrients, sodium, zinc, vitamins B6 and B12. Associations in the expected directions were also found for urinary sodium, whole blood folate, serum and red blood cell folate, and plasma selenium (all p
< 0.001). The present findings suggest that the HDHI is a valid measure of diet quality as it is capable of discerning quality of diets of subgroups and ranking nutrient intakes among NZ adults.
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