A consideration of eating patterns in the general population is necessary when deriving food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG) as promoting the intake of one food may indirectly result in the increased consumption of another, which may not always be desirable. A number of issues that influence meal patterns such as temporal distribution of food intake (using data from the Netherlands), converging and diverging foods (using data from Ireland) and meals eaten inside and outside of the home (using data from the UK) are examined and discussed in the context of developing FBDG.
Food intake databases from three EU countries: The Netherlands, Ireland and the UK.
The hot meal (dinner) was found to be the main contributor to the intake of energy and macro-nutrients in the Dutch population. It was also the main contributor to the intake of all micro-nutrients with the exception of calcium where the bread meal contributed a similar proportion as the hot meal to the intake of this micronutrient. Furthermore, fruit intake showed a very different temporal distribution to vegetable intake. Exploring the convergence of certain foods in the Irish population also revealed differences between fruit and vegetables. A low correlation was shown for consumers of fruit and vegetables indicating that being a high fruit consumer did not suggest being also a high vegetable consumer. An examination of where meals were consumed among British adults showed that 71% of all meals were consumed inside the home while 29% were consumed outside. 27% of food energy and 45% of alcohol energy was consumed out of home by the total population. In addition, those eating less of their foods out of home obtained a lower proportion of their food energy from fat and protein and a higher proportion from carbohydrate. A different demographic profile was associated with eating out compared to eating in, comprising more males and younger individuals.
Information on patterns of food intake and food habits, specifically temporal distribution, the convergence and divergence of foods and foods consumed inside and outside of the home, give a culturally specific picture of food consumption practices within a population. This should enable the development of more culturally acceptable and realistic FBDG.
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