Study author Suzanne Judd of the University of Alabama-Birmingham and colleagues said the dietary patterns are based on results from a 110-food-item frequency questionnaire filled out by 21,636 black and white adults ages 45 and older.
The study found the five dietary patterns 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.
"We believe focusing research on dietary patterns better represents how people eat, compared to single foods or nutrients," Judd said in a statement.
Blacks were more likely than whites to eat a Southern dietary pattern. Men, people making less than $35,000 a year and those who weren't college graduates were more likely than women, those who made more money, or those who were more educated, to follow the Southern pattern of eating.
Blacks tended not to eat the alcohol dietary pattern, Judd said.
"People ages 45-54 tended to eat a traditional dietary pattern, while those age 75 and older were likely to not eat the traditional dietary pattern," Judd said. "College educated adults tended to not eat the Southern dietary pattern."
The findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism scientific sessions in San Diego.