What's America Eating?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Just what is causing America’s waistline to grow?  Listen to experts on air, read the latest diet books, scan the daily headlines and you will assume most of the calories causing obesity are coming from fast food and sugary drinks.  A new survey in the Nutrition Journal used NHANES information to compile the sources of energy intakes of kids and adults in the U.S.  The results may surprise you.


    Restaurant sourced pizza, burgers, chicken and French fries actually accounted for less calories in the average diet, compared to store-sourced breads, grain-based desserts, pasta and yes, soft drinks.  Experts agree that in surveys like NHANES, there is some natural “under-reporting” when participants fill out questionnaires.  Taking that into account, the standard fast food fare still supplied less overall calories in the typical American diet compared to these four other identified sources.

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    Some interesting statistics:


    Teens get 63% of calories from store bought foods,  17.5% of calories from quick service restaurants, and 7% of calories from full service restaurants.


    Among other age groups:

    Kids ages 6 – 11 get 63.3% calories from store bought foods, 12.2% from quick-serve restaurants, 9.8% from school cafeterias.

    Adults (ages 20 – 50) get 63.2% of their calories from store bought foods, 15.9% from quick serve restaurants and 10.4% from full service restaurants.

    Adults ages 51 – 70 get 70.3% of calories from stores, 8.6% from quick serve restaurants and 10.4% from full serve restaurants.

    Adults 70+ get more than 75% of their calories from store bought food.


    What are the top foods supplying daily calories?  Cakes, cookies, donuts and yeast-based breads (which are also one of the biggest sources of salt in our diets).  The age breakdown with highest to lowest daily calorie contributors is as follows:


    Ages 6 – 11: Cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, donuts and yeast breads

    Teens:  Soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, pizza, yeast breads, chicken and chicken mixed dishes and finally, fries (2.7% of daily calories) and burgers (2% of the daily calories)

    Adults 20-50: Soda, energy and sports drinks, chicken and chicken mixed dishes, yeast breads, grain-based desserts and finally alcohol.

    Adults over age 50: Yeast breads, grain-based desserts, chicken and beef dishes, alcohol, soda, energy and sports drinks.


    One significant finding is that when it comes to sugary beverages like soda, most of us are buying four times as much sugary drink products from stores compared to fast service restaurants.  In fact, most of our sugar calories are coming from the supermarket.  In light of the efforts of Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, to impose beverage limits in the fast food sector, it should be noted that based on these NHANES results, more emphasis and effort needs to be directed to supermarkets and grocery stores, where 64 ounce jugs and 12-pack cans of sugary beverages are apparently the source of significant calories in the average American’s diet. 


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    We need to include the supermarket sector as we engage in the battle against obesity.  We also need to focus on seniors, who are consuming most of their diet from convenient store-bought foods.  It's also important to take note of the fact that foods like pizza and yeast-based breads contain alarming levels of salt per serving.  A high salt diet is associated with high blood pressure and according to some recent studies, loss of bone density.

    (Source: http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com)


    Amy Hendel is a health professional, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch?  Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103.  Catch her guest appearances on Marie! on Hallmark and other local and national news and talk shows.   


Published On: June 17, 2013