Americans need to eat less and change what they eat, according to a report card on the changing American diet by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The center gave the American diet a D+ in the category of Meat, Poultry, and Seafood. Chicken began edging out beef starting in 2004 but Americans still eat more red meat – beef plus pork, lamb, and veal – than white meat. Red meats, especially processed meats such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, and sausage, raise the risk of colon cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
The center gave Americans’ Fruit and Vegetable consumption a B-. However, Americans are ignoring advice to fill half their plates with vegetables and fruits. Vegetable consumption – minus white potatoes – climbed in the late 1980s but has been inching down since. Fruit –minus juice – has been fairly flat.
The center gave Americans’ diet a C- on Grains, since they’re still eating far more – mostly white – flour in bagels, buns, tortillas, muffins, cupcakes, doughnuts, cookies, pasta, and pizza crust than in the 1970s. And although soft drinks – and added sugars – are down from their peak, the center issued a D+ on Beverages because sodas – which are mostly sugary, not diet – are still the dominant beverage.
“It’s clear that Americans aren’t now following, nor have they ever followed, the advice dished out by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other health authorities,” said Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director for the center. “Americans are eating the diet recommended by food manufacturers and restaurants’ marketing departments, which encourage overconsumption of everything except for fruits and vegetables.”
The center gave the American diet a grade of “Incomplete” on Fats and Oils. In 2011, the Census Bureau stopped collecting data on fats and oils – data that the USDA relied on for its estimates.
In the Dairy category, cheese consumption is at an all-time-high with no sign of slowing down. Yogurt consumption has doubled since 2000 and has quadrupled since 1985.
The center last graded the changing American diet in 2013.