This paper introduces the use of nutrition profiles as a first step in the development of a concept that is suitable for evaluating forest nutrition on the basis of large-scale foliar surveys. Nutrition profiles of a tree or stand were defined as the nutrient status, which accounts for all element concentrations, contents and interactions between two or more elements. Therefore a nutrition profile overcomes the shortcomings associated with the commonly used concepts for evaluating forest nutrition. Nutrition profiles can be calculated by means of a neural network, i.e. a self-organizing map, and an agglomerative clustering algorithm with pruning. As an example, nutrition profiles were calculated to describe the temporal variation in the mineral composition of Scots pine and Norway spruce needles in Finland between 1987 and 2000. The temporal trends in the frequency distribution of the nutrition profiles of Scots pine indicated that, between 1987 and 2000, the N, S, P, K, Ca, Mg and Al decreased, whereas the needle mass (NM) increased or remained unchanged. As there were no temporal trends in the frequency distribution of the nutrition profiles of Norway spruce, the mineral composition of the needles of Norway spruce needles subsequently did not change. Interpretation of the (lack of) temporal trends was outside the scope of this example. However, nutrition profiles prove to be a new and better concept for the evaluation of the mineral composition of large-scale surveys only when a biological interpretation of the nutrition profiles can be provided.