Diet and Cancer
Objectives : The objective of this study is to measure the nutrient density (ND) of the 7-day sample menus for a 2000 calorie meal plan recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) using the Nutrition Rich Food (NRF) index and to determine target NRF index score for a meal and a day.
Methods : Each food item on the menu was represented by the representative most frequently consumed food item from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2013-2014. Nutrition information was extracted from the USDA database according to the food code of each food item. Nutrient density was evaluated by calculating the NRF index for individual meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), snacks and overall daily intake based on previously published method. The mean, median, and interquartile range (IQR) of the NRF index for the meals, snacks and daily intake over 7 days were calculated. One-sample t-test was conducted to compare the estimated mean daily intakes of individual nutrients derived from present analysis to the reported values by USDA.
Results : The mean ± SD and median (IQR) of the NRF index of all meals were: 209 ± 83.7 and 199.6 (158.6 to 229.1). For each eating occasion, the mean ± SD and median (IQR) of the NRF index of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, and snacks were 184.2 ± 65.5 and 195.7 (174.4 to 223.5), 213.5 ± 72.5 and 205.4 (169.2 to 229.7), 229.2 ± 112.3 and 186.7 (164.6 to 254.4), and 55.9 ± 36.6 and 47.4 (33.3 to 80.9), respectively. The mean ± SD and median (IQR) of the NRF index of daily intake over 7 days were 457.4 ± 61.7 and 455.5 (424.4 to 471.2). The estimated mean daily intake levels of sodium was found significantly higher than the mean daily intake level reported by the USDA (t=3.57, P=0.012).
Conclusions : The study demonstrated that ND varies among the meals and daily intake following the USDA 7-day meal plan, and breakfast meals appear to have lower ND relative to lunch and dinner. Overall ND of daily intake was 457.4 ± 61.7 as presented by NRF index, which can be used as a reference score to evaluate the healthfulness of daily intake. However, by following our methodology, the USDA meal plan may have underestimated the daily intake of sodium. Since nutrient profile and content can vary significantly among foods within the same food group, foods with high ND should be selected to help meet nutrient needs while adhering to a healthy eating pattern.
Funding Sources : No funding source for the research. All authors are full time employees of Herbalife Nutrition.