American Diet Report Card: Needs Improvement

How healthy is your diet? If you were to be graded and given a report card based on the choices you make, would you receive a passing grade? The Center for Science in the Public Interest used data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the dietary habits of the average American and their report showed that there is a lot of room for improvement for the majority of us!

When compared to previous comparable report cards, there have been some areas where the scores were better, but there were also some areas in which the grades were slipping. For example, the average American did manage to decrease the consumption of red meat, scoring a B grade in the subject of Meat, Poultry, and Seafood. At the same time, the consumption of fruits and vegetables has risen, bringing the grade to a B- in that area.

However, one of the areas in which we aren’t doing as well is in our obsession with sweets. This consumption of sweeteners is primarily in the form of drinks, such as soft drinks and sugar-sweetened juices. In the consumption of sugars, the average American earned a dismal D+, an especially influential low score, give that the overconsumption of sugars is associated with increased risks of diabetes and obesity. Also lacking was adequate consumption of healthy grains. Although grains are being consumed quite highly, the majority of them are greatly processed, such as in products made out of white flour instead of those made from whole grains. In the area of grains, the average American earned only a C on the report card.

In terms of dairy, although we are eating a bit less 4% fat whole milk (which was viewed as positive), that habit may be offset by a considerable increase in the consumption of cheese and a large increase in the amount of yogurt being eaten. In terms of fats, some improvements are being made in that the amount of saturated fat in the form of shortening being consumed is dropping by quite a bit, being replaced by oil.

Overall, the grade point average or GPA that the average American received on this report was a dismal 2.42. When all was said and done, keeping improvements and declines in mind, we are eating about the same quantity of food and the dietary choices we are making in our diet has about the same health score as it did a decade ago. Looking further back, however, the average American in 2010 was eating nearly 500 calories more, per day, than was consumed in 1970. This represents an increase in 23 percent in daily calories. As vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts, meats, and lean dairy are approximately the same during that time, it appears clear that the increase in caloric intake is primarily from the consumption of unhealthy fat sources, sugars, and carbs.

Familiarity with proper portion size, on top of general knowledge of nutrition is generally lacking among most Americans. Addressing these issues will be vital in helping to overcome the obesity problem across the country.