The dual purposes of the study were to develop and test the potential usefulness of a new measure of adherence to dietary recommendations and to use it to assess the diets of children. The researchers define "adherence" as the degree to which a person's intake meets a standard or recommendation.
Using data from the government's Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, the researchers analyzed food consumption patterns of nearly 7,000 children in two groups, ages 2 to 3 and 4 to 8, and developed "food group adherence scores" based on the children's intake and the food guide recommendations.
According to the researchers: "For these two age groups of children, although the number of servings for the food groups significantly increased, the adherence scores significantly decreased with increasing age." This reflects a common tendency among adolescents to abandon healthier eating habits as they become more independent and perhaps have more freedom to purchase their own snack foods. The new scoring system suggests that even small increases in consumption of fruits and vegetables "could dramatically improve the overall dietary quality of the 4-to-8-year-old child."
The researchers conclude: "Adherence scores may be a useful tool and could be used in program evaluation, surveillance and epidemiological studies of diet and health."
Helping People Estimate Portion Sizes of Wedge-Shaped Foods
Accurately estimating portion sizes is essential in patient counseling and nutrition research, and registered dietitians often use "estimation aids" like rulers to assist their clients in determining how much they are eating. But many foods that are high in sugar, calories and saturated fats - such as cake, pie and pizza - often are served in wedge-shaped pieces, which studies have shown can make it difficult for people to estimate portions.
Researchers at Tennessee State University have developed an adjustable wedge and compared people's ability to estimate portion sizes using it and a ruler. The wedge was tested with 320 adults using different sizes and types of wedge-shaped foods. The findings show the adjustable wedge estimation aid does appear to reduce the average estimation error for some larger portions of wedge-shaped foods.
The researchers write that "substantial misestimation" by people using the adjustable wedge means "regardless of aid, some people have difficulty estimating portions of wedge-shaped foods." Still, they add: "The adjustable wedge was easy for people to use and can be recommended as an option for estimating portion size of wedge-shaped foods."
Low-Energy-Dense Diets are Associated with High Diet Quality
People who eat a low-energy-dense diet - defined as relatively fewer calories per gram of food - consume more food by weight but fewer overall calories than people who follow a high-energy-dense diet, according to researchers from Pennsylvania State University. The study adds to a growing body of evidence indicating beneficial effects of a low-energy-dense or low-calorie diet.
The researchers studied reported food intakes of 7,500 adults who participated in the government's Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals. Their diets were classified as low-energy-dense, medium-energy-dense and high-energy-dense. For each group, the percentage of people consuming various foods and beverages and the average amount of foods and beverages they consumed was determined along with their average nutrient intakes.
Compared with participants consuming a high-energy-dense diet, those with a low-energy-dense diet consumed fewer calories but ate more food, by weight, from most food groups. Those eating the low-energy-dense diet included more foods that were high in micronutrients and water but low in fat, such as fruits and vegetables, fewer non-water beverages and higher intakes of several important micronutrients including vitamins A, C and B6, folate, iron, calcium and potassium.
The researchers conclude that a low-energy-dense eating plan "allows individuals to reduce their energy intake without necessarily decreasing the amount of food they consume or compromising their dietary quality." To achieve a low-energy-dense diet, the researchers recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables; low-fat and reduced-fat dairy products, grains, meat and meat alternatives."