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Obes Res. 2002 May;10(5):370-8.

Trends in energy intake in U.S. between 1977 and 1996: similar shifts seen across age groups.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516-3997, USA.



To determine the trends in locations and food sources of Americans stratified by age group for both total energy and the meal and snack subcomponents.


Nationally representative data was taken from the 1977 to 1978 Nationwide Food Consumption Survey and the 1989 to 1991 and 1994 to 1996 (and 1998 for children age 2 through 9) Continuing Surveys of Food Intake by Individuals. The sample consisted of 63,380 individuals, age 2 and up. For each survey year, the percentage of total energy intake from meals and snacks was calculated separately for 2- to 18-year-olds, 19- to 39-year-olds, 40- to 59-year-olds, and those 60 years and older. The percentage of energy intake by location (at-home consumption or preparation, vending, store eaten out, restaurant/fast-food, and school) and by specific food group was computed for all age groups separately.


The trends in location and food sources were almost identical for all age groups. Key dietary behavior shifts included greater away-from-home consumption; large increases in total energy from salty snacks, soft drinks, and pizza; and large decreases in energy from low- and medium-fat milk and medium- and high-fat beef and pork.


Total energy intake has increased over the past 20 years, with shifts away from meals to snacks and from at-home to away-from-home consumption. The similarity of changes across all age groups furthers the assertion that broad-based environmental changes are needed to improve the diets of Americans.

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