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Appetite, 1997, 29, 11–24 Meal Pattern and Nutrient Intake Among Adult Finns EVA ROOS and RITVA PRÄTTÄLÄ National Public Health Institute, Finland The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between meal pattern and diet. Nutrient contents of meals, snacks and other eating occasions were compared and differences in dietary intake analysed between respondents following a conventional meal pattern and others. A random sample of 1861 adults aged 25–64 from four regions of Finland completed a mailed questionnaire and 3-day food record in the spring of 1992. A conventional meal pattern was defined on the basis of national dietary guidelines as including breakfast, warm lunch and warm dinner, and subjects were identified with the help of the questionnaire. Meals and snacks were defined according to the respondents subjective criteria. Forty-four percent of all respondents followed the conventional meal pattern. Meal pattern has no effect on nutrient intake in men and small effects in women. Women following the conventional meal pattern had higher energy and cholesterol intake and lower alcohol and vitamin C intake than other women. Meals contributed to energy, protein and fat intake, and snacks to sugar and alcohol. Meal pattern had only a small effect on diet and conventional meal pattern cannot be considered healthier than other meal patterns. © 1997 Academic Press Limited INTRODUCTION During this century the number of daily cooked meals has declined in Finland and other western countries. The main social factors promoting the meal pattern change have been urbanisation, industrialisation and the convenience provided by food processing (Rotenberg, 1981; Mintz, 1985; Prättälä & Helminen, 1990; Mennel, Murcott & van Otterloo, 1992; Prättälä, Pelto, Pelto, Ahola & Räsänen, 1993). There have been concerns expressed by the scientific community as well as the mass media about the rising consumption of snacks at the expense of “proper meals”. In public health studies skipping breakfast and eating snacks between meals have been classified as ‘‘bad’’ health habits (e.g. Belloc & Breslow, 1972; Segovia, Bartlett and Edwards, 1989; Sobal, Revicki & DeForge, 1992). Concern about the declining role of meals can even be seen in dietary recommendations. For example, the Swedish recommendations include a meal pattern (Standing Nordic Committee on Food, We are grateful to Dr Pirjo Pietinen, Head of the 1992 Dietary survey of Finnish Adults, M.Sc. Päivi Kleemola for checking the food records and analysing the dietary data and M.Sc. Jukka Lauronen for technical help. This work was supported by research grants from the Academy of Finland and the University of Helsinki. Correspondence should be addressed to: Eva Roos, National Public Health Institute, Department of Nutrition, Mannerheimintie 166, FIN-00300 Helsinki, Finland. 0195–6663/97/040011+14 $25.00/0/ap960095 © 1997 Academic Press Limited

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