• Article

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

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.


Nielsen, S., Siega-Riz, AM., & Popkin, BM. (2002). Trends in energy intake in U.S. between 1977 and 1996: Similar shifts seen across age groups. Obesity Research, 10(5), 370-378.