Date of Award

Winter 1991

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services--Health Services

Committee Director

Gregory H. Frazer

Committee Member

Lindsay Rettie

Committee Member

Robert Lucking


This work elucidates the development of nutrient-based dietary standards in the United States from the original energy and protein-based standards proposed by Atwater in 1894 to the micronutrient-based Recommended Dietary Allowances revised by the National Research Council in 1989. This qualitative historical research chronicles the development and subsequent revisions of nutrient-based food guides and food guidance models issued in the United States between 1916 and 1991. A literature search of historical food guides, research, and review papers from the fields of nutrition science and education, dietetics, and health science provided primary sources of information for the history. A literature search of Federal legislation and supportive articles in the field of economics and social sciences provided primary as well as secondary sources of information. Interviews with nine expert nutrition educators and authors provided additional primary and secondary sources of information and insight on food guidance, nutrition education, and Federal nutrition and food policies. Content analysis and analytical induction of this information was used to provide a comprehensive understanding of the food guides and to generate a theoretical framework for the assumptions, stated and implicit, which underlie the nutrient recommendations and the development and revision of food guides in the United States. An understanding of former food guides can lead to the development of a valid, reliable food guide model and subsequent comprehensive food guidance systems which can direct development of national food and nutrition policies.