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News from the December 2008 Journal of the American Dietetic Association

CHICAGO The December issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association features research studies focusing on the everyday eating habits of consumers. Researchers look at why fast foods continue to be a popular meal choice and methods for adding healthier foods to a person's diet.

Studies published in the December 2008 Journal of the American Dietetic Association include:

  • Why Eat at Fast-Food Restaurants: Reported Reasons among Frequent Consumers
  • Menu Modeling with MyPyramid Food Patterns: Incremental Dietary Changes Lead to Dramatic Improvements in Diet Quality of Menus
  • Soft Drink Intake Is Associated with Diet Quality Even among Young Japanese Women with Low Soft Drink Intake
  • Nutrient Intake and Immune Function of Elderly Subjects
  • Using Nutrition Labeling as a Potential Tool for Changing Eating Habits of University Dining Hall Patrons
  • Increased Energy Density of the Home-Delivered Lunch Meal Improves 24-Hour Nutrient Intakes in Older Adults

Frequent Fast-Food Customers Cite Reasons for Their Patronage

Researchers at the University of Minnesota say the main reason most people eat at fast-food restaurants is because fast-food is fast.

According to the six-month study of 605 people who said they eat at fast-food places at least once per week, 92 percent cited quickness as the top reason they eat fast food. Eighty percent said it was because the restaurants were easily found and 69 percent said it was because the food tastes good.

About one in five participants in the study (21 percent) said they eat at fast-food restaurants because they offer nutritious food options.

The researchers write: "Foods available in restaurants and other away-from-home eating locations tend to be higher in calories and fat compared to foods from home. Thus, public health strategies to either reduce consumption of fast food or improve food choices at fast-food restaurants would likely be helpful."

Gradual Changes in Food Choices Result in Improvements in Overall Diet Quality

Making small, gradual changes in food choices can result in improvements in people's diet quality and help consumers better meet the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to research supported by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and Baylor College of Medicine.

In a study designed to use a technique called menu modeling "to evaluate actual and recommended food intake patterns using specific foods readily available in supermarkets including canned, frozen and convenience products," the researchers developed 35 different daily menus geared toward women ages 31 to 50 that they named "baseline," "transitional" and "goal." For example, soft drinks were replaced with a yogurt drink and 80-percent lean ground beef was replaced with 95-percent lean.

According to the researchers: "Results from the nutrient and food group analysis for each target menu indicated that small, incremental changes in food choices dramatically improved the quality of the menus and met current dietary recommendations for key nutrients when averaged over seven days."

The researchers concluded: "With awareness of how small changes may influence health, Americans may be motivated to make gradual changes in their diet patterns, reaping measurable health benefits and reducing the burden on the national health care system."


Contact: Jennifer Starkey
American Dietetic Association

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