Nation’s Diet in Crisis

Nation’s Diet in Crisis
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Survey reveals the vast majority of Americans are not eating healthy, even by U.S. Dietary Guideline standards.

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In 2010, the USDA officially revised the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which raises the question: how have we been doing with the old guidelines? What’s wrong with the standard American diet?

This is a table reporting compliance with the 2005 guidelines, which were not particularly stringent. For example, they recommend we should eat at least one serving of whole fruit a day, yet three-quarters of Americans couldn’t even attain that one fruit serving a day. And look at college-age men and women—90% couldn’t even grab half a banana or something, all day long.

For vegetables, we did even worse. About 9 out of 10 Americans couldn’t even reach the minimum—and don’t get me started on dark green leafies. For example, the recommended minimum intake of dark green leafy vegetables for 9 to 13-year old kids? A fifth of a cup a day—and they even consider romaine lettuce a dark green leafy. Yet only about 1 in 500 kids eat a single leaf of romaine lettuce—1 in 500. 97% of Americans couldn’t bother with a carrot; 96% noncompliant with legumes; 99% of Americans don’t eat even the measly minimum of whole grains.

And then, to top it all off, junk foods. You want to know how lax the federal regulations are, the federal guidelines? A quarter of our calories are allowed to be empty calorie junk foods. A quarter of our diet can be cotton candy, and we’re still okay under the government recommendations.

Still, how many Americans couldn’t even keep it down to that? 95% of Americans exceed their maximum discretionary caloric allowances. And look at children. Only one in a thousand American children eats even marginally healthy, by ensuring less than a quarter of their calories aren’t completely wasted—the equivalent to eating less than 24 spoonfuls of sugar a day. Only one in a thousand American kids can evidently manage that. And we wonder why there’s a childhood obesity epidemic—and adults too!

“In conclusion, nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations [even crappy recommendations]. These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation’s diet in crisis.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

In 2010, the USDA officially revised the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which raises the question: how have we been doing with the old guidelines? What’s wrong with the standard American diet?

This is a table reporting compliance with the 2005 guidelines, which were not particularly stringent. For example, they recommend we should eat at least one serving of whole fruit a day, yet three-quarters of Americans couldn’t even attain that one fruit serving a day. And look at college-age men and women—90% couldn’t even grab half a banana or something, all day long.

For vegetables, we did even worse. About 9 out of 10 Americans couldn’t even reach the minimum—and don’t get me started on dark green leafies. For example, the recommended minimum intake of dark green leafy vegetables for 9 to 13-year old kids? A fifth of a cup a day—and they even consider romaine lettuce a dark green leafy. Yet only about 1 in 500 kids eat a single leaf of romaine lettuce—1 in 500. 97% of Americans couldn’t bother with a carrot; 96% noncompliant with legumes; 99% of Americans don’t eat even the measly minimum of whole grains.

And then, to top it all off, junk foods. You want to know how lax the federal regulations are, the federal guidelines? A quarter of our calories are allowed to be empty calorie junk foods. A quarter of our diet can be cotton candy, and we’re still okay under the government recommendations.

Still, how many Americans couldn’t even keep it down to that? 95% of Americans exceed their maximum discretionary caloric allowances. And look at children. Only one in a thousand American children eats even marginally healthy, by ensuring less than a quarter of their calories aren’t completely wasted—the equivalent to eating less than 24 spoonfuls of sugar a day. Only one in a thousand American kids can evidently manage that. And we wonder why there’s a childhood obesity epidemic—and adults too!

“In conclusion, nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations [even crappy recommendations]. These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation’s diet in crisis.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

Be sure to check out all my other videos on dietary guidelines, children and those sneaky empty calories

And for additional context, be sure to check out my associated blog post: Industry Influence on Our Dietary Guidelines.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

19 responses to “Nation’s Diet in Crisis

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  1. great video. If you would recommend one journal for a busy biology student to read to keep up with the latest nutrition research, what would it be? This site is great..please do not ever stop doing it. I have already handed it off to several people with cardiovascular disease. Thanks, Victor




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    1. My favorite journal is probably the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, but I strive to at least skim through every issue of most every English-language nutrition journal in the world (see my list here). The few you’ll note missing from my list are mostly industry journals (like New Horizons In Nutrition And Health, published by the Butter Council), which are great for comic relief but don’t make my must-read list.




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  2. I do not see how it could be correct that 99.9% of 2-3 year olds exceed the recommendation for solid fats and sugars. Could you comment on the methodology of the study?




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  3. Mari,

    You can see the complete study by clinking on the link provided in the “Sources Cited” section. Then click on “Free PMC Article” at bottom right of paragraph to view the whole thing. The article has a section devoted to “Materials and Methods.”




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  4. I want to be a nutritionist for children…
    I was going to be diabetic at age of 10 and it was horrible I changed my diet and now I’m good and I want to inspire kids to do the same to make them feel that they are worth more then just some fat kid who nobody likes. What would be the best school to study for that?




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    1. Unfortunately there isn’t a good school for this that I am aware of. I advise people to go to the best program they can and keep up with the new science via commercial free websites like NutritionFacts, Dr. McDougall and PCRM. Read the literature and join the debate in your program. Write papers and include research supporting your position. Good luck with your journey whether it goes toward being a registered dietician, registered nurse or health provider… nurse practitioner, physician assistant, DO, MD plus others.




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  5. Hi, Dr. Greger, thanks again for your work, everyone should have the information and contribute to its continuance, before they get sick, but anytime is also good.

    This video was listed as part of series, I am wondering if the series can be presented one after the other? In other words, I’d like to click “go” on the series. Am I missing somewhere that you click to ‘view series’ ? Maybe it’s not so easy to do, I don’t know, but would be helpful if it could be.

    Sometimes I just need a short video on a point, but most of the time, the information is new to me, and I find a few short videos on the same topic are much better than a single one…almost like the whole food versus the nutrient, so to speak..




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  6. Please help! I have a 4 month old vegan breastfed baby who will be starting solids very soon. I am getting lots of pushback regarding her vegan diet, including she needs meat for iron, eggs to avoid allergies and so on. Can you please provide some advice on foods to focus on for the first few months to ensure our baby gets adequate health or anything we need to be aware of? Thank you so much!




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    1. Marie: You are on the right track and doing what is best for your child. I have some resources that should help you get started on being able to bolster your case. Here is a post that I often share with people:

      First, note the following quote from a position paper from the ADA: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
      .
      Also note this quote from Dr. Greger’s book, How Not To Die, page 411-412: “Vitamin B12-fortified plant-based diets can offer health benefits for all stages of the life cycle. [When] Dr. Benjamin Spock, the most esteemed pediatrician of all time,…died at ninety-four, he advocated children be raised on a plant-based diet with no exposure to meat or dairy products. … ‘Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods have a tremendous health advantage and are much less likely to develop health problems as the years go by.’ ”
      .
      But having said that, there are some ‘gotchas’ when it comes to young children and whole plant food diets (just like there are gotchas with children and any diet). So, it really is worth spending some time reviewing accurate, evidence-based information on the topic. Here’s some ideas for specifics:
      .
      PCRM is the Physician’s Committee For Responsible Medicine, headed up by Dr. Barnard. Dr. Greger has mentioned Dr. Barnard and PCRM favorably in posts and his book. Here are two articles from PCRM that I think contains the type of information you are looking for:
      http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/vegetarian-diets-for-children-right-from-the-start
      http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/info_children.pdf
      http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/info_advchild.pdf
      .
      I’ll also refer you to a site called the Vegetarian Resource Group, VRG. Their articles are usually very well researched and Dr. Greger has mentioned VRG favorably at least once. VRG has a whole section on kids on their website.
      Here’s the main page. Scroll down to the Nutrition section:
      http://www.vrg.org/family/kidsindex.htm
      This is one of my favorite articles on that page. which starts with babies and goes on up:
      http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/kids.php
      .
      Finally, I *highly* recommend getting a book called, Becoming Vegan, Express Edition. That book is a great over-all reference book for the whole family. It also has an entire chapter on children and what to feed. It also includes an age-based chart where you can get ideas on how much of each of the main nutrients your child needs at various ages. The authors of that book have been guest bloggers here on NutritionFacts. They are very well respected and extremely knowledgeable about nutrition science and how it applies to all ages.
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      I really hope this helps you to get your people on board. It’s not just about respecting the decisions you make as a parent. Consuming animal products and junk food puts your child at risk. It’s just not OK for people to push that on you.




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    2. Marie, the main person to listen to is your Pediatrician. (S)he can tell you whether your baby is growing properly. If your baby is not, then you should consider liberalizing the diet to allow for enough growth for him/her to develop normally. Vegan diets are missing B12, so supplementing this nutrient (if not others as well) is critical. The importance of plant-based diets in the prevention of chronic diseases is a life-long concern, but it is predicated upon the fact that most people are OVERnourished. UNDERnourishment is not appropriate in an individual who is growing rapidly and needs (on a pound-for-pound basis) much more in the way of calories and protein than adults do. Where is your baby on the growth charts?




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