How What We Eat Has Changed
Americans eat more chicken and less beef than they used to. They drink less milk – especially whole milk – and eat less ice cream, but they consume way more cheese. Their diets include less sugar than in prior decades but a lot more corn-derived sweeteners. And while the average American eats the equivalent of 1.2 gallons of yogurt a year, he or she also consumes 36 pounds of cooking oils – more than three times as much as in the early 1970s.
Americans’ eating habits, in short, are all over the place, at least according to our analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.
The post goes on:
Broadly speaking, we eat a lot more than we used to: The average American consumed 2,481 calories a day in 2010, about 23% more than in 1970. That’s more than most adults need to maintain their current weight, according to the Mayo Clinic’s calorie calculator. (A 40-year-old man of average height and weight who’s moderately active, for instance, needs 2,400 calories; a 40-year-old woman with corresponding characteristics needs 1,850 calories.)
Nearly half of those calories come from just two food groups: flours and grains (581 calories, or 23.4%) and fats and oils (575, or 23.2%), up from a combined 37.3% in 1970. Meats, dairy and sweeteners provide smaller shares of our daily caloric intake than they did four decades ago; then again, so do fruits and vegetables (7.9% in 2010 versus 9.2% in 1970).
I guess its not just me. Or you.
On the other hand, I don’t like chicken, so this is more you than me:
Several interesting shifts are happening within food groups. For the past decade, for instance, chicken has topped beef as the most-consumed meat. In 2014, Americans ate an average of 47.9 pounds of chicken a year (2.1 ounces a day), versus 39.4 pounds (1.7 ounces a day) of beef. While average chicken consumption has more than doubled since 1970, beef has fallen by more than a third.
How healthy any of this is another story. (Warning: link to Youtube.)
“Calories are cheap, nutrition is expensive.”
“This” is our nation’s food insecurity problem. Currently more than 50 million Americans are food insecure, and out of those receiving food stamps—otherwise known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program)—about 40 percent are currently employed. With a tightly regulated program that only provides participants with about $1.40 per meal, even SNAP recipients struggle to feed themselves in a system where only the most highly processed, sugary foods are close to affordable.
Colicchio explains that despite our failings, there’s still a chance to resolve the bulk of our issues.
“I think if you ask people, ‘Who’s on food stamps?’ they’d say, ‘People who are out of work and lazy.’ It’s people who work. That’s why I think it’s really important that we increase the minimum wage, because hunger is an issue of poverty.”
While the film explores the causes of food insecurity, it also illustrates its effects. “Stuffed but starving” is a term used to describe the soaring obesity rates among the nation’s hungriest. With such little assistance available, many are often forced to live on highly processed, sugary snacks because they’re the cheapest. Not only is childhood development hampered by this kind of diet, but in adults and children both, obesity-related illnesses are rampant.
In this down economy, few may want to hear about providing more funding to assistance programs. But according to Colicchio, it could save us money.
Some experts estimate it will take $20 billion annually to end hunger in the U.S. But if we went that route, and fed our nation’s food insecure with whole, nutritious foods, in satisfying quantities, it could in turn cut down on the $113 billion spent annually on healthcare costs that go to treat obesity-related illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
“It’s easy to demonize parents for making bad choices and feeding their kids fast food with empty calories and lots of fat and no nutrition and sugary drinks,” Colicchio says. “But if that stuff is cheap and you have no money, the difference between being hungry and crying all night long or putting soda in them—what choice do you have?”
According to the chef, that problem in particular is a systemic one that starts within the walls of our federal government.
“Our tax dollars are really going to prop up fast food, and if some of that money was siphoned off of corn, wheat and soy subsidies and moved over to fresh fruits and vegetables, it could make a major difference,” Colicchio says.
To that end, he champions the notion of reconfiguring our food stamp rules, allowing a recipient’s benefit to double if they shop at a farmers market. This would place fresh fruits and vegetables well within their economic reach, while protecting their health.”
We would eat more chicken in restaurants if it were better. What you mainly get in pasta dishes, etc is boneless, skinless chicken breast that was frozen a long time ago. It’s not appetizing to contemplate.
Welcome to Angry Bear, Crprod.
Only about 2 percent of U.S. farmland is used to grow fruits and vegetables, while 59 percent is devoted to government-subsidized commodity crops, especially corn where 85% grown is not for human consumption, except in the form of HFCS.
In fairness a great deal of that farmland devoted to corn has neither the soils or water supply needed for modern scale fruit and vegetable production. Which doesn’t excuse such practices as growing water thristy cotton in the California desert or erecting barriers against sugar imports to protect two billionaire brothers in Florida (one donates to Dems the other to Reps)
I find it odd that red meat, poultry and fish are grouped together. I get that they are all animal flesh, but they have very different impacts on health and on the environment.
That’s a great point Joel. There is consensus in the scientific community that the number one thing a person can do to mitigate climate change is adopt a diet that uses zero animal products. There is no such thing as a meat eating environmentalist and it’s too bad that almost every climate change advocate has not become, much less endorsed, a vegan.
@Sebastion, as a card-carrying member of the scientific community for over 35 years, I was previously unaware of this “scientific consensus.” Can you share a link or two documenting this “consensus” and how it was arrived at?
Joel (don’t take this too seriously) that’s the trouble with “the scientific community.” in general… on general subjects… scientists are no smarter the rest of us (proven by scientific research — i lost track of the citation decades ago, before there were links).
but for a long time there have been people… some of them scientists no doubt, but of “the scientific community” i have no idea… who have pointed out the environmental, and nutritional, waste of meat based diets.
even, as Bruce points out, that some land that won’t grow crops will grow cattle.
for me, i have gradually given up meat, for no consistent ethical or scientific reasons. the other day, having been sick for awhile and not eating, i succumbed to the odor of frying chicken at the local grocery (sic) store, and bought a piece. nearly choked on the salt and the meat was too fatty to eat (lazy chickens no doubt). cut it off the bone and fed it to the dogs. they did not mind.
that’s the problem right there.
I burned my “scientific community” card the same day i burned my draft card.
How sad for you. The scientific community is the only place where facts and evidence are reliably and consistently used as a guide to action.
I also still have my draft card. But I know the difference.
“scientists are no smarter the rest of us ”
Cite, please. Take all the time you need. Or did you think that arguments from authority are “scientific?”
In my experience (and I have considerably more experience in science than you ever will), scientists are way smarter than the general public.
Now, high intelligence and good judgement are unlinked traits in humans. In my experience, scientists have far better judgement on some matters (chiefly decisions involving numeracy) than the average citizen, but on other matters (e.g., personal relationships, leadership), probably not.
“don’t take this too seriously”
I learned from reading this blog not to take your posts seriously. You prize posing and bloviation more than suits the substance of your arguments. You have many worthwhile things to say, but your misplaced and unnecessary harshness and bitterness causes some of us who would otherwise admire your insight to steeply discount it.
I would call it frustration on the part of coberly after making valid points repeatedly to people about SS.
after your kind support for Social Security (not necessarily for me) i thought you might have forgotten you hated me.
i looked in vain for the evidence and facts that guided your comments addressed to me here. but perhaps you don’t consider comments action.
i plead guilty to occasional expressions of anger on angry bear, but “bloviate”? is that a word you heard from a right wing political “analyst”, or is it based on evidence and facts, not to say “reason”?
Science, strictly understood, is based on facts and evidence. The same cannot be said for “the scientific community,” or opinions expressed by “scientists,” especially outside their own field.
i am sorry i can’t remember the citation you requested, but please accept my word that it was in a peer reviewed journal, back in the day when i read such.
don’t be too sure you have more experience in science than I have.
you sound a little like “Dr Science.” remember “he’s smarter than you: ” I have a Master’s Degree….in Science!””
“I find it odd that red meat, poultry and fish are grouped together”
hmmm. ever hear of Kingdom Animalia?
oh, before i sidetracked myself
of course i don’t expect you to accept arguments from authority…. that is, i expect you to, most people do most of the time, there isn’t time enough to do otherwise… but i wasn’t offering my recollection of an obscure psycholgy paper as “authority.” as for taking MY authority that there is such a paper, well, i could be wrong, unlike you. but i certainly wasn’t expecting you to take MY authority… maybe just consider the possibility… you know, let your mind wander into the “might be” just for a few seconds. it’s the way all great scientists got their start.
i give you permission to believe, without facts or evidence, that you know a lot more about science than i ever will, if it makes you feel better.
but in the interests of your sanity you should probably be a little careful about throwing your arrogance around. you might meet someone some day who knows nothing about science and could still teach you something worth knowing.
but joel is right. getting angry is a fault i would like to cure myself of. it’s not so easy as it sounds.
i believe in “free speech” even if the concept does not exactly apply to trolling blogs where there is a difference between allowing people you disagree with to express their opinions and make their case… and just suffering irresponsible people and people of bad faith to overwhelm the site and wasting people’s time with what turns out to be endless amounts of garbage… dangerous garbage when you consider what’s at stake.
i don’t get angry at joel, but it’s probably another bad fault in my character that i can’t resist teasing him. he means well, and he doesn’t waste our time.