Planning nutritious and appetizing menus is a complex task that researchers have tried to computerize since the early 1960s. We have attempted to facilitate computer-assisted menu planning by modeling the reasoning an expert dietitian uses to plan menus. Two independent expert systems were built, each designed to plan a daily menu meeting the nutrition needs and personal preferences of an individual client. One system modeled rule-based, or logical, reasoning, whereas the other modeled case-based, or experiential, reasoning. The 2 systems were evaluated and their strengths and weaknesses identified. A hybrid system was built, combining the best of both systems. The hybrid system represents an important step forward because it plans daily menus in accordance with a person's needs and preferences; the Reference Daily Intakes; the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; and accepted aesthetic standards for color, texture, temperature, taste, and variety. Additional work to expand the system's scope and to enhance the user interface will be needed to make it a practical tool. Our system framework could be applied to special-purpose menu planning for patients in medical settings or adapted for institutional use. We conclude that an artificial intelligence approach has practical use for computer-assisted menu planning.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association,
Vol. 98, no. 9 (Sep 1998), pp. 1009-1014