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

Obes Res. 2002 May;10(5):370-8. doi: 10.1038/oby.2002.51.


Objective: 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.

Research methods and procedures: 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.

Results: 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.

Discussion: 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Carbonated Beverages
  • Cattle
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet / trends*
  • Diet Surveys
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Energy Intake*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Middle Aged
  • Milk
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Restaurants
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Swine
  • United States


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary