Fast Facts: Americans' Eating Habits
The USDA reports that to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people would need to substantially lower their intake of added fats, refined grains, sodium, along with added sugars and sweeteners, and increase their consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk and milk products.1
Some American eating habits over the past few decades include:
- Americans' mean energy intake of calories increased from 1955 per day during 1971 to 1975 to 2269 per day in 2003 to 2004 — more than a 300-calorie increase. It then declined to 2195 calories per day during 2009 to 2010.2
- Children ages 2 to 18 consume almost three snacks a day, and snacking accounted for up to 27 percent of children's daily caloric intake.3
- Recently, however, caloric intake for all boys and girls began to decrease from 1999 to 2000 to 2009 to 2010. Boys aged 2 to 19 decreased from 2,258 to 2,100 and girls aged 2 to 19 decreased from 1,831 to 1,755.4
Bigger Portion Sizes
- From 1977 to 1998, portion sizes for selected popular food items and overall energy intake increased for foods purchased in restaurants or fast-food establishments and for foods prepared at home. The increase ranged from 49 to 133 calories for all selected popular foods, such as salty snacks, hamburgers, soft drinks and french fries.5
- Sugar consumption has decreased from about 100g per day to 76.6 grams per day from 1999 to 2000 to 2007 to 2008, but consumption is still nearly two times the USDA recommended intake.6
- Sugar-sweetened beverages make up nearly 16 percent of children ages 12-19 total caloric consumption.7
More Dietary Fat
- Americans consumed an average of 640 calories worth of added fats per person per day in 2008.8
A Major Increase in Eating Out
- 63 percent of children ages 1 to 12 ate out at a restaurant one to three times per week.9
- Adults consume an average of 11.3 percent of their total daily calories from fast food. Obese adult consumed 13.2 percent of their calories from fast food, while overweight individuals consumed 11.2 percent and normal or underweight adults consumed 9.2 percent of calories from fast food.10
1 Wells HF and Buzby JC. Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in U.S. Food Consumption, 1970-2005. Economic Information Bulletin No. 33. Washington, D.C.: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2008.
2 Ford ES and Dietz WH. Trends in energy intake among adults in the United States: Findings from NHANES. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97(4): 848-53, 2013.
3 Piernas C and Popkin BM. Trends in Snacking Among U.S. Children. Health Affairs, 29(3): 398-404, 2010.
4 Ervin RB, Ogden CL. Trends in intake of energy and macronutrients in children and adolescents from 1999-2000 through 2009-2010. NCHS Data Brief, no 113. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2013.
5 Nielsen SJ and Popkin BM. Patterns and Trends in Food Portion Sizes, 1977-1998. Journal of the American Medical Association, 289(4): 450-53, 2003.
6 Welsh JA, Sharma AJ, Grellinger L, Vos MB. Consumption of added sugars is decreasing in the United States. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(3): 726-34, 2011.
7 Wang YC, Bleich SN, and Gortmaker SL. Increasing caloric contribution from sugar-sweetened beverages and 100 percent fruit juices among U.S. children and adolescents, 1988-2004. Pediatrics, 121(6): 1604-14, 2008.
8 Loss-Adjusted Food Availability: Spreadsheets - Calories. In U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service (accessed March 2010).
9 Guthrie JF, Lin BH, and Frazao E. "Role of Food Prepared Away from Home in the American Diet, 1977-78 versus 1994-96: Changes and Consequences." Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 34(3):140-50, 2002.
10 Fryar CD and Ervin B. Caloric intake from fast food among adults: United States, 2007-2010. NCHS data brief, no 114. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2013.