Background: The aim of this study was to determine overall trends of total energy intake by food location and food type in diets of adolescents and young adults.
Methods: This study used a nationally representative sample of 16,810 individuals, ages 12-29 from the 1977 to 1978 Nationwide Food Consumption Survey and the 1989-1991 and 1994-1996 Continuing Surveys of Food Intake by Individuals. For each survey year, the percentage of total energy intake from meals and snacks was calculated for adolescents ages 12-18 and young adults ages 19-29. The percentage of energy intake by location and for specific food group was computed for both age groups, separately.
Results: Both adolescents and young adults are obtaining less of their energy intake at home and more at restaurants and fast food places. This is predominantly seen among calories from snacking occasions for adolescents and both meals and snacks among the older age group. Significant increases in consumption of pizza, cheeseburgers, and salty snacks and decreases in consumption of desserts and certain milk and meat products by both age groups are shown.
Conclusions: To improve the diets of adolescents and young adults, healthy food choices outside the home need to be as readily available as the foods which have increased in popularity over the past 20 years.