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Introduction What are Amencans eating? How are their current eating habits different from those a decade or two ago? In what ways are we monitoring these trends? Do these trends have significance for human health? What factors influence food selection? How do nutrition programs and public policy affect the diets of Americans? These questions and others were prominent in discussions of the Food and Nutrition Bond (FOB) dunng the planning of the symposium whose proceedings appear in this volume. We FLUB was aware that it selected ~ complex topic for its 1984 annual symposium and that there are a vancty of explanations for dietary habits, depending on one's perspective or expertise. Nonetheless, it concluded that the subject should be confronted because of He enormous interest of the ~cnera] public in food for its own sake and for its beneficial] and adverse effects on health. Never before has there been such a proliferation of books, specialty food stores, and feature articles on food in magazines and newspapers from recipes to weight reduction plans and advice on nutrition and health. The strong market for these products points to the unparalleled fascination of Americans with the food they cat. No longer me they content with the straightforward tu~n-of-thc-century diet con- sumed in most American homes and restaurants, but instead Heir interest has divcrsif~cd to include the cuisines of many nations and specialized diets intended to promote health. Along with this diversification, Acre has been an exponential growth of the fast food business. As more women have left the traditional role of housekeeper and cook for the business world, the availability of palatable, inexpensive, and easily obtainable 1

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WHAT Is AMERICA EATING? food has become more and more attractive, giving rise to construction of the hamburger- and fried chicken-dispensing facilities that line our higl,- ways today. Both the exotic and more mundane diets can be either a short- tenn fad or a long-tenn commitment. Thus, their nutritional consequences must be carefully monitored and analyzed. Legislators have also been interested in the nutntional needs of Amer- icans. They have been actively studying the adequacy of federal nutntion- monitonng efforts and have recently proposed legislation (H.R. 2436) in an attempt to coordinate nutrition surveillance efforts of the U.S. De- partment of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Dcpamnent of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The federal agencies and the scientific community have long been ex- amining the food habits of Amencans. Contributions to the understanding of this important subject have been made not only by investigators in the field of nutrition but also by experts in physiology, psychology, cconom- ics, and consumer behavior. Thus, the scope of the symposium was ex- panded to include these perspectives as all-important components of the overall subject. Although the stimulus for this symposium was provided by interest in nutrition monitoring, the speakers were not asked to address the adequacy of nutrition surveillance. Rather, the' focused on what the major food consumption surveys and other large-scale studies have demonstrated about food consumption patterns in the United States along with the determinants, treads, and consequences of food sc]ec- tion. The program was divided into four major sessions to accommodate these concerns. This organization is represented by four parallel sections in this volume. In the first section, entitled "Eating Patterns, Nutrition. and Health in the United States," the symposium participants review data on eating patterns over the past two decades based on information from the two major surveys conducted by USDA and DHHS. The implications of this knowledge for nutrition and the health status of the U.S. population are also discussed. This subject will be covered in depth in a soon-to-be completed report of the Joint Nutrition Monitoring Evaluation Committee, whose mandate is briefly described. The second section is entitled "What Factors Shape Eating Patterns?'' Approaches to understanding the motivations for food choices and eating patterns are presented by a psychologist, an economist, and a consumer behaviorist. "Eating Trends and Nutritional Consequences" is the title of the third section, which is devoted to eating mends and their implications for nu- tnt~on, with emphasis on socioeconomic 'groups that are at nutritional risk.

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INTRODUCTION 3 Certain trends in food choice are believed to have important effects on nutritional status. The fourth section is an integrative presentation entitled "Perspectives on Nutrition Programs, Policy, and Research." Contributors to this section explore the roles of policymaking bodies and the food industry in nutrition research and in nutrition programs for monitoring public education.

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