• Fri, Nov 30 2012

Study Says American Diets Suck. Who’s Surprised?

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In a study that compared USDA nutritional guidelines with what Americans are actually eating each day, researchers determined that here in the good old US of A, we basically eat like crap. This certainly isn’t news, but it’s still disheartening.

For the study, researchers analyzed responses from a large health survey of 8,272 people to compare what the general public ate in the course of one day to what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggested they should be eating.

Subsets of people (like children, young adults, or the elderly) were assigned numbers from 1-100 based on the percentage of the USDA recommendation for different food groups, such as fruit, vegetables, grains, milk, meat and beans that they ate each day.

I was kind of surprised to learn that senior citizens scored the highest in the study, with an average score of 65. Children and adults both scored 56. Overall, women had better diets than men and Hispanics ate better than both blacks and whites. Income also made a difference, but not how you’d think: children from lower income families were found to be meeting more of the recommendations than children in higher income brackets, possibly due to their enrollment in the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs

Let me know if I’m interpreting this study wrong, but 56 and 56 aren’t exactly admirable scores out of 100. I mean, it’s not like the fact that we eat like crap in America is news to anyone at this point, but 65 is THE BEST we can do? Pretty sad for one of the richest and most modern countries in the world.

That’s not to say that the USDA guidelines themselves aren’t flawed. The USDA is influenced strongly by Big Food, especially lobbyists for meat and dairy. With a growing trend towards organic, local and plant-based food, perhaps, incrementally, the guidelines will evolve.  What’s for sure is that American diets need to change.

Hazel Hiza, of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) in Alexandria, Virginia said:

Regardless of socioeconomic status, age, race and education, the American diet as a whole needs to be improved.

The biggest takeaway from the study is in line with the growing body of nutritional information, both research-based and anecdotal: eat more fruits and vegetables! Gary Bennett, of Duke University, said:
Most policy decisions have advanced the production, processing and consumption of inexpensive grains… If we can figure out policy that could do the same for fruit and vegetables, our health would benefit.
Policy is great, but it’s only piece of the puzzle. Clearly, a change needs to happen at all levels of American culture in order for Americans to eat better diets. Our attitudes need to change and hopefully our stores and schools and restaurants (please, less takeout and frozen dinners, more home-cooked meals made from fresh ingredients) will follow suit.
Photo: Shutterstock
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  • http://twitter.com/VeggieToGo Veggie-To-Go

    Don’t be surprised that the elderly eat better. They grew up in a time before HFCS was in everything and there was a fast food chain on every corner. They got into the habit of eating as a family, cooking at home, and not snacking on processed junk. For people who say our food system isn’t broken, we’ll start to see where this is headed with the generation after them.

  • http://twitter.com/JoannaMPH Joanna

    56… a failing grade, right? So sad!

  • Joe Slade

    I’m certainly not surprised ha. Good article highlighting some good facts as far as diet. I’m going to reshare with my community. Thanks for the post. If interested http://www.destinationfatloss.com