The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between meal pattern and diet. Nutrient contents of meals, snacks and other eating occasions were compared and differences in dietary intake analysed between respondents following a conventional meal pattern and others. A random sample of 1861 adults aged 25-64 from four regions of Finland completed a mailed questionnaire and 3-day food record in the spring of 1992. A conventional meal pattern was defined on the basis of national dietary guidelines as including breakfast, warm lunch and warm dinner, and subjects were identified with the help of the questionnaire. Meals and snacks were defined according to the respondents subjective criteria. Forty-four percent of all respondents followed the conventional meal pattern. Meal pattern has no effect on nutrient intake in men and small effects in women. Women following the conventional meal pattern had higher energy and cholesterol intake and lower alcohol and vitamin C intake than other women. Meals contributed to energy, protein and fat intake, and snacks to sugar and alcohol. Meal pattern had only a small effect on diet and conventional meal pattern cannot be considered healthier than other meal patterns.