If anyone’s still wondering why Americans have gotten so fat on average, the mystery is over. According to a Reuters article published today,
Portion sizes in the United States not only exceed those in less-developed countries, but also in the developed world. In fact, Americans have the highest per capita daily consumption in the world, eating 3,770 calories a day, more than a Canadian at 3,590 calories or an Indian at 2,440, according to data from the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.
3800 calories? Per day??? Can that possibly be right? That’s about double the recommended healthy calorie intake for an adult–certainly for an adult woman under 6 feet tall. Double. And that’s supposedly the AVERAGE, not the maximum–I shudder to think about the calorie counts for the people who eat more than that. If the UN isn’t counting food wastage or otherwise misinterpreting the trends, then we are in Deep Trouble. Of course, so is Canada, but really.
The article goes on to relate American fast food consumption, and overstuffed restaurant portions, to the burgeoning world food crisis. It claims Americans eat out 6 times per week on average and consider that an important part of their lives. It’s not like they’re eating gourmet food, either. Most of it is from your standard 3 burger chains. I can’t imagine eating at those except if I were stranded along a highway with a broken-down car for more than four hours. Maybe six.
Our lunches tend to be a sandwich, some vegetables and an apple or orange. Maybe some soup. Dinners are usually something like a piece of fish, a large handful of broccoli or cauliflower, some sliced tomatoes or green beans or a salad. Not glamorous, but not bad. Maybe some rice or noodles or boiled potatoes or corn to go with it, but not as the majority of the food. Maybe a quarter of the plate. Maybe some fruit and/or–this is summer, after all–a cup of (ordinary, non-premium) ice cream for dessert. Is any of this so hard? Does any of it take more than half an hour total? Not really. Does it cost the earth? Not really–maybe 5-6 bucks for dinner for 3. A lot less if we have eggs or beans as the main protein instead.
But even with dessert, our dinners are rarely more than 600-700 calories, and we’re not exactly starving. Multiply that by three and you get an outer limit max of about 2100 calories, not 3770 (and would you really want to eat 700 calories for breakfast most days? ewww.)
So what’s cookin’ (or not) with the huge calorie counts? The Reuters article puts it down to portion control. I doubt that.
I put it down to not eating real food in the first place. No amount of fake fried fast food is going to be a good substitute for solid fruits and vegetables and simple proteins. Mostly it’s the grease factor. At full size, some of these “meals” top out at 1200-plus calories per person. And even at that, they don’t really hold you well til the next meal. That has to do with the extreme lack of fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein per calorie. You can’t get a typical fast food cheeseburger and fries down to a reasonable calorie count and still have it provide a reasonable amount of nutrition. The burger would be about two inches in diameter. The fries simply wouldn’t exist.
For breakfast, forget the doughnut, the oversized whitebread bagel, the granola “breakfast” bars. Instead, eat a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, or a banana, or two pieces of whole wheat toast, and drink orange juice and milk. At lunch, skip the cheeseburger with fries and a Coke OR the huge, supposedly virtuous 6x10x4″ box of salad bar “salad” with tons of “fixings” and the typical cafeteria-style dessert (all those muffins, 4″ cookies, the chips, etc…). Instead, pack a tuna fish sandwich, or PBJ, or a couple of hardboiled eggs, and an apple or orange. With a handful or so of carrots and celery or broccoli. At the cafeteria, go for a medium-sized bowl of chili with beans and tomatoes, add a piece of fresh fruit, and call it lunch.
Not only are these choices a lot less expensive, the differences can be upwards of 500 calories per meal. Multiply that by three, and you know why people are eating twice the number of calories they ought to in this country.
Filed under: Food Politics |