The typical American plate is filled with refined grains, foods with added sugar and fats, meat and poultry. Although lack of exercise plays a role, the growing obesity epidemic in the United States has a lot to do with what Americans eat. Not only does the American diet affect weight, but it also increases the risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. Knowing what makes up a typical American diet might help steer you in the direction of making healthier choices.
Sweets and Soda
Two of the top five sources of calories in the American diet are sweets, which come in at No. 1, and soda, which comes in at No. 4. Sweets include foods such as cakes, cookies, pies and pastries. Both sweets and soda contribute calories but do not offer any nutritional value. Decreasing your intake of these foods can help you decrease your caloric intake, which might help you maintain a healthier weight.
When it comes to food choices, convenience plays a major role. Convenience foods includes meals eaten out and foods purchased at the grocery store that help make meal prep at home easier. These foods tend to be high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar, and they offer very little nutritional value. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, as Americans started eating more foods away from home, their calorie intake increased, along with their waistlines.
Meat and Poultry
When it comes to meat consumption throughout the world, Americans come in second to Luxembourg, averaging 270 pounds per person per year, according to a report from NPR. Although poultry intake is up, it's still not as much as meat, with the average American eating 99 to 100 pounds a year, according to the National Chicken Council. Both meat and poultry are a major source of saturated fat in the American diet. High intakes of saturated fat raise blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.
What You Should Eat
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has created an easy-to-follow infographic called MyPlate to guide you toward healthier eating. MyPlate encourages you to make fruits and vegetables the focus of your meals, filling half your plate, while grains -- preferably whole grains -- fill one-quarter, and lean proteins -- including seafood and beans -- make up the final quarter. A diet that includes more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and varying sources of lean proteins can help you obtain a healthier weight and lower your risk of chronic illness.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Canned Food Alliance: Fact Sheet: The State of the American Diet: How Can We Cope?
- Topics In Clinical Nutrition: The State of the American Diet: How Can We Cope?
- Cleveland Clinic: Convenience Foods
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Nutrition Labeling at Fast Food and Other Chain Restaurants
- NPR: A Nation of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up
- National Chicken Council: Per Capita Consumption of Poultry and Livestock, 1965 to Estimated 2014, in Pounds
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: ChooseMyPlate.gov