In recent decades significant changes have occurred in the Dutch dietary pattern with regard to several important dietary factors. In the case of some factors, the diet has clearly become more healthy; for others, the reverse is true (see table 1).
The main improvements are the decrease in the content of saturated and Trans fatty acids in foods, and the increase in the consumption of fish. Between 1988 and 1998, the consumption of Trans fatty acids decreased by over 60% as a result of modifications to the composition of margarines and cooking fats.
The consumption of saturated fatty acids decreased by 5%, largely due to the successful introduction of lower-fat dairy and meat products. Fish consumption appears to have increased: in 2001, the quantity of fish purchased for consumption at home had increased by 17% compared to the 1995 figure.
However, fewer than 25% of people follow the recommendations with regard to the consumption of fruit, vegetables and dietary fibre. Over the course of 10 years (1988-1998), consumption of fruit and vegetables actually declined by between 15% and 20%. Despite improvements in terms of the fatty acid content of products, only 5% of the Dutch population follow a diet according to the recommended fatty acid pattern.
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Mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed their infants. The eating habits of young people are showing a less favourable trend than those of the population as a whole. In particular, there has been a much sharper decline in the consumption of bread and vegetables. Undernutrition may be observed among some more elderly citizens, which may lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
The dietary composition of persons with a lower socio-economic status is, on average, less likely to be in accordance with the recommendations than that of people in the higher socio-economic groups. Few statistics are available with regard to the food consumption of ethnic minority groups. There is no uniform picture covering all groups.
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