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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Food Surveys Research Group

Title: MyPyramid intakes and snacking patterns of U.S. adults: What We Eat In America, 2007-2008

item Sebastian, Rhonda
item Enns, Cecilia
item Goldman, Joseph

Submitted to: Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/16/2011
Publication Date: 6/16/2011
Publication URL:
Citation: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2011. MyPyramid intakes and snacking patterns of U.S. adults: What We Eat In America, 2007-2008. Available:

Interpretive Summary: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans form the basis for Federal nutrition policy. MyPyramid translates this guidance into food-based recommendations for consumers. As snacking is a dietary behavior that has increased in the U.S. population during recent decades, it is of interest to measure relationships between snacking and intakes of MyPyramid food groups. Using the most recently released nationwide data on dietary intakes from What We Eat In America (WWEIA), NHANES 2007-2008, we examined snacking frequency by men and women, MyPyramid intakes overall and from snacking occasions, and the relationship between snacking frequency and total intake of MyPyramid food groups and components for adults 20 years of age and over. “MyPyramid Intakes and Snacking Patterns of U.S. Adults: What We Eat In America, NHANES 2007-2008,” a Dietary Data Brief available on the Food Surveys Research Group Web site at, provides information about snacking by adults and its association with their MyPyramid intakes. Findings include the following: Ninety percent of adults snacked at least once on any given day, and about one in six men and one in five women snack four or more times in a day; snacks provided on average from 7 to 38 percent of adults’ total daily intake of MyPyramid food groups, 17 percent of intake of solid fats, and 41 percent of added sugars. Snacking more times in a day was associated with higher total intakes of most MyPyramid food groups and components, although this is mostly attributable to consuming more food, not making healthier choices. By conveying this information through simple charts and brief text, this Dietary Data Brief widens the pool of consumers who can benefit from the Food Surveys Research Group’s ongoing work in monitoring and assessing food consumption and related behavior of the U.S. population. This information will be of benefit to legislators, program planners, media, and consumers who want clear and easily comprehensible information about snacking by adults in the United States.

Technical Abstract: The goals of this study were to determine the frequency of snacking by adults, measure the contribution of snacks to MyPyramid food group intakes, and determine whether snacking is associated with total intake of MyPyramid food groups and components. Twenty-four hour dietary recall data from 5,334 adults age 20 years and over participating in What We Eat In America (WWEIA), the dietary intake component of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), in 2007-2008 were analyzed. Regression procedures were used to calculate adjusted means and test for associations between snacking frequency and total intakes of MyPyramid food groups and components. Ninety percent of adults consumed at least one snack on any given day. Snacks provided approximately one-fourth of the day’s total intake of calories. Relative to the percentage of total calories they provide, snacks contributed higher percentages of the total intakes of two MyPyramid food groups whose intakes are encouraged (fruits and oils) but also of added sugars, a MyPyramid component that is typically consumed in excess in the American diet; snacks provide lower percentages of the total intakes of the following food groups: vegetables, grains, and protein foods, and the component solid fats. Consuming more snacks in a day was associated with significantly higher total intakes of most MyPyramid food groups and components; however, these associations disappeared when differences in caloric intake among the snacking levels are taken into account. This means that those who snacked more often were not making better food choices but simply eating more overall. Snacks accounted for a sizable proportion of adults’ total caloric intake. The overall quality of adults’ diet could be improved by modifying their food choices at snacks in favor of items that contribute more to MyPyramid food groups such as vegetables and dairy and less to the MyPyramid component added sugars. The information furnished by this study is useful to anyone who is interested in the role of snacking in the diets of adults, including legislators, program planners, nutritionists, media, educators, and consumers.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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