Craving for hi-calorie, low-nutrient foods soaring

April 30, 2002 in Nutrition Topics in the News

Craving for hi-calorie, low-nutrient foods soaring

More Americans than ever are gorging on calorie-rich, nutrient-poor snacks, sodas and sweets instead of eating a well balanced, nutritious meal at dinnertime.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill say Americans have increased their energy intake of French fries, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pizza and Mexican food as part of their meals. Overall, they found that total calorie intake has increased over the past 20 years, with shifts away from meals to snacks and from at-home to away-from-home.

The study found that, in every age group, more and more Americans now consume a large proportion of their daily food intake via snacks rather than sit-down meals, favoring quick, easy--often non-nutritious--foods like potato chips, cookies, pizza and other high-calorie treats.

Children are making a definite shift away from milk to sodas and sugary drinks. While 90% of 6- to 11-year-olds in the late 1970s said they had milk on a given day, just 78% could say so by the mid-1990s. At the same time, daily soda consumption rose in the same age group from 31% in the 1970s to 46% two decades later.

Looking closely at data on children's responses the researchers found that "energy-dense, nutrient-poor" foods now account for over 30% of American children's daily energy intake, with sweeteners and desserts jointly accounting for nearly 25%. What's more, as children's self-reported intake of these types of foods rose, so did their risk of suffering from one or more vitamin or mineral deficiency.

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