a restaurant with family or friends allowed them to socialize and was a better use of their leisure time than cooking at home and cleaning up afterward (Panitz, 1999).
For food consumed at home, never has so much been so readily available to so many—that is, to virtually everyone in the household—at low cost and in ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat form (French et al., 2001; Sloan, 2003). Increased time demands on parents, especially working mothers, have shifted priorities from parental meal preparation toward greater convenience (French et al., 2001), and the effects of time pressures are seen in working mothers’ reduced participation in meal planning, shopping, and food preparation (Crepinsek and Burstein, 2004). Industry has endeavored to meet this demand through such innovations as improved packaging and longer shelf stability, along with complementary technologies, such as microwaves, that have shortened meal preparation times.
Another aspect of this trend toward convenience is an increased prevalence, across all age groups of children and youth, of frequent snacking and of deriving a large proportion of one’s total daily calories from energy-dense snacks (Jahns et al., 2001). At the same time, there has been a documented decline in breakfast consumption among both boys and girls, generally among adolescents (Siega-Riz et al., 1998) and in urban elementary school-age children as compared to their rural and suburban counterparts (Gross et al., 2004); further, children of working mothers are more likely to skip meals (Crepinsek and Burstein, 2004).
There are also indications that children and adolescents are not meeting the minimum recommended servings of five fruits and vegetables daily recommended by the Food Guide Pyramid (Cavadini et al., 2000; American Dietetic Association, 2004). This trend is partially explained by the limited variety of fruits and vegetables consumed by Americans. In 2000, five vegetables—iceberg lettuce, frozen potatoes, fresh potatoes, potato chips, and canned tomatoes—accounted for 48 percent of total vegetable servings and six fruits (out of more than 60 fruit products)—orange juice, bananas, apple juice, apples, fresh grapes, and watermelon—accounted for 50 percent of all fruit servings (Putnam et al., 2002).
These trends have contributed to an increased availability and consumption of energy-dense foods and beverages. As summarized in Table 1-1 and Figures 1-1 through 1-3, trends in the dietary intake of the general U.S. population parallel trends in the dietary intake of children and youth. A more in-depth discussion of caloric intake, energy balance, energy density, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Food Guide Pyramid is included in Chapters 3, 5, and 7.