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Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Apr;65(4 Suppl):1254S-1263S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/65.4.1254S.

Method for assessing food intakes in terms of servings based on food guidance.

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US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Riverdale, MD, USA.


We describe a method for comparing food intakes reported in surveys with recommendations given in the US Department of Agriculture's food guide pyramid. Such comparison was previously difficult because many foods are eaten as mixtures that cannot be categorized into pyramid food groups and because food intake data and food recommendations are expressed in different units of measurement. We developed a recipe file showing ingredients at multiple levels of breakdown and used it to disaggregate food mixtures into their ingredients so that they could be placed into pyramid food groups. Food-specific weight consistent with the pyramid definitions for serving sizes were derived from the food code book of the 1989-1991 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals and used to develop a serving-weight file. Data collected from 8181 adults aged > or = 20 y in the survey were used to estimate the mean number of servings from pyramid food groups and percentages of the population meeting pyramid recommendations. The mean numbers of servings were close to the minimum recommendations for the grain, vegetable, and meat groups and well below the minimum recommendations for the fruit and dairy groups. large proportions of adults (43-72%) failed to meet the dietary recommendations. Our method has several nutrition monitoring and nutrition education applications.

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