Five Food Patterns Don’t Fit Me


Since I have become the chief cook and bottle washer at my house after becoming a widower a couple years back, the eating patterns developed from the culinary practices in my kitchen would make the American Heart Association’s nutrition list of most suspect ways to shorten life. I often have “breakfast” for supper and if I’m working at home, lunch usually doesn’t happen at all. If it does, it is a natural grain bar of some sort and sweet tea. My menus are not planned. They happen by a quick look into the pantry or refrigerator. Most of the time, both of those areas are limited to their selections and the final entry is not what you would find on many restaurant menus. However, it does fill an empty spot and also helps the family know what to get me for a gift at birthdays and Christmas, which are gift cards to local eateries. Those gift cards are more nutritious anyway.

During my years of growing up on the farm, our eating patterns were pretty well dictated by the time of the year, what we raised, as well as what other family members living close by produced. There was always plenty of milk, eggs, butter, meat of all types and grain for milling. Can’t ever remember a meal without bread of some form or the other. In the spring we had fresh strawberries to go with fresh cream and hot biscuits that was like nothing I have ever tasted since. Every Saturday meant a chicken would lose its life for Sunday dinner. We had a lot of chickens to go into the ministry due to preachers coming for Sunday dinner and some of Mama’s fried chicken. Back then, no one wanted to be stuck with a wing, but today wings are the major part of the chicken that gets all the publicity. Hard to figure isn’t it?

The way we eat has certainly changed and it no longer depends on the season, what we grow or who lives nearby either. In a recent report presented in findings at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012 Scientific Sessions, it says that scientists say they have identified five eating patterns for U.S. adults that are strongly influenced by age, race, region, gender, income and education. They didn’t call me, so they were not able to also include what you may just happen to find in the Frigidaire at any given moment to those list of patterns as well.

The five dietary patterns that they came up with are nothing like I would have selected, but I haven’t sent out 21,636 questionnaires either. Their research was based on that many questionnaires from adults ages 45 and older. I would have made the age category however. The 110-food-item questionnaire was designed to estimate the usual and customary intake of a wide array of nutrients and food groups. I guess that is why I wasn’t contacted. My intake is not a “wide array” and the “nutrients” would be in question also. Plus my food groups consisting of oatmeal, toast, scrambled eggs, jelly, steak, cheese and more steak would not have check boxes on their questionnaire.

The five food patterns they identified in their study were:  

Southern ““ fried, processed meats, and sugar-sweetened beverages

Traditional ““ Chinese and Mexican food, pasta dishes, pizza, soup and other mixed dishes including frozen or take-out meals  

Healthy ““ mostly fruits, vegetables and grains

Sweets ““ large amounts of sweet snacks and desserts

Alcohol ““ proteins, alcohol and salads

I’m still trying to figure out Alcohol as a food pattern, but I sort of thought Healthy would include fruits, vegetables and grains. I don’t know where meats disappeared to, unless it is the protein, and surely those of us living in the South are not the only people eating processed meats. I guess the over indulgence in baloney helps us to make that food pattern. Chinese and Mexican food along with pizza is not my form of traditional, but as they say, “The times they are a changing.”

The researchers out of all of those questionnaires say they also found clear differences in dietary patterns across demographic and socioeconomic groups. A few of those differences:

Men and people making less than $35,000 a year and those who weren’t college graduates were more likely to follow the Southern pattern of eating than women, those who made more money, or those who were more educated.

People ages 45 to 54 tended to eat a traditional dietary pattern.

Those 75 years and older were likely to not eat the traditional dietary pattern.

College-educated adults tended to not eat the Southern dietary pattern.

I’m college-educated and tend to eat the Southern dietary pattern and really don’t fit much of anything else they have put out in their findings. I guess I’m the unknown that all these studies seem to have. But, I think I could have come up with a better listing of food patterns than what I have seen here. It does remind me though: I need to go to the grocery store for some more eggs and baloney.



–       Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at