Sources of Energy among the U.S. Population, 2005-06


The purpose of this research was to identify the contributions of various foods to intake of energy in the U.S. population age 2 years and older.

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We used the 2005-06 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to determine the contribution of specific foods to intake of energy. The dietary intake data collected in the survey were catalogued according to discrete food codes. For this analysis, food codes representing similar foods -- such as the various types of pasta dishes -- were combined to provide an indication of the contribution of distinct food items to intake of the dietary component being studied. That is, the food codes were sorted into 96 mutually exclusive food categories, termed specific foods.

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There are separate tables for the percentage contribution and mean contribution (kcal) of various foods, stratified by age group, gender, race/ethnicity, and family income.

Mean Intake of Energy and Percentage Contribution of Various Foods

Mean Intake of Energy and Mean Contribution (kcal) of Various Foods

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Key Findings

The top five sources of energy in the U.S. population are grain-based desserts (138 kcal per day); yeast breads (129 kcal per day); chicken and chicken mixed dishes (121 kcal per day); soda (114 kcal per day); and pizza (98 kcal per day). The major sources of energy vary by age, gender, and race/ethnicity, as follows:

  • Rankings vary somewhat by age. For example, the top five sources of energy for 2-3 years olds include whole milk (104 kcal per day), fruit juice (93 kcal), reduced-fat milk (91 kcal), and pasta and pasta dishes (86 kcal). Pasta and reduced-fat milk are also among the top five sources of energy for 4-8 years olds (97 and 95 kcal, respectively). Other top contributors include Mexican mixed dishes for 19-30 year olds (146 kcal), alcoholic beverages for 31-50 year olds (135 kcal) and 51-70 year olds (83 kcal); and dairy desserts and ready-to-eat cereals for individuals 71 years and older (78 and 57 kcal, respectively).
  • Rankings vary somewhat among males. For example, a top source among individuals 71 years and older is beef and beef mixed dishes (71 kcal).
  • Rankings vary somewhat by race/ethnicity. For example, major contributors for 2-18 year old Non-Hispanic Blacks include fruit drinks (100 kcal/day) and pasta and pasta dishes (90 kcal), while Mexican-Americans' top sources include Mexican mixed dishes (136 kcal) and whole milk (99 kcal). Non-Hispanic Blacks and Whites consume more energy from sugar-sweetened beverages (combining soda and fruit drinks) than from milk (combining all milks), whereas Mexican-Americans consume more energy from milk than from sugar-sweetened beverages .

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Suggested Citation

Suggested citation for information contained on this page:

Sources of Energy among the U.S. Population, 2005-06. Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program website. National Cancer Institute. Updated April 20, 2018. Accessed November 20, 2019.

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