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Healthy Eating Statistics

No great story ever started with, “I ate a fantastic salad.”

Healthy eating and reducing weight is an ongoing hot-topic in America. The methods and prescribed diets seem to change as fast as Clark Kent changing into Superman. Champions of a particular diet plan will cite many sources & tout many benefits on why their diet is the way to go. They have the proverbial “key” to weight loss and health management.

Americans are confused on which diet to follow, it seems. In a survey done by Food Insight, 80% of consumers said there is a lot of conflicting information around which foods are “healthy.” Of those 80% of consumers, 59% say that the conflicting information makes them doubt their dietary food choices.

One thing we can know for certain: what you eat affects your health, longevity, immune system and appearance. While this saying is over-simplified, it’s a powerful way to convey this idea: you are what you eat.

Food Consumption in the United States

Poor Diet In America

There are roughly 209 million adults in the United States - and 117 million of them have a preventable chronic illness related to their eating patterns. That’s about 55% of the population.

The most recent statistics from the CDC show that heart disease is still the leading cause of death for Americans - there are roughly 647,000 deaths a year due to heart disease. About 50% of deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and strokes are the result of poor diets.

According to the CDC, 42.4 % of American adults are obese, which is an increase from 30.5% in 2000. 18.5% of children are obese. For adults, that means there are 42.4% of adults with a BMI greater than or equal to 30. Children with a BMI at or over the 95% of their sex-specific BMI growth charts. The Health and Human Services division of the US Government estimates that half of all US adults will be overweight by the year 2030.

Current Problems In America With Food Consumption

  • 117 million adults have a preventable chronic illness related to eating patterns
  • Half of all US adults will be overweight by 2030
  • 42.4% of Americans are obese
  • 18.5% of children are obese
  • 647,000 deaths/year due to heart disease
  • Almost 50% of deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and strokes are due to poor diet

Current Effect On Government Spending

Approximately 75% of healthcare spending goes toward treating preventable chronic diseases, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, iron-deficiency anemia & high blood pressure. Some experts estimate that healthier diets can save America up to $87 billion a year!

Healthy Eating in America

What Are The Benefits Of Eating Healthy? 

Eating a healthy diet and exercising can greatly reduce chronic issues. It’s estimated that a whopping 80% of chronic disease can be prevented through healthy eating and changing lifestyle habits.

Most American consumers want to eat healthy. Some may lack the resources - time, money, energy, while others don’t know how. 93% of Americans want to eat healthy, and 63% of consumers say they try to eat healthy most or all of the time.

While 93% of Americans express the desire to eat healthy, only 10% of consumers say they eat healthy ALWAYS. As we can see from the results of this survey below, the majority of consumers think they eat a healthy diet at least sometimes. But given the rates of obesity and chronic diseases in America, something isn’t adding up.

In fact, around 75% of people think their diet is “good, very good, or excellent,” but with 42.6% of Americans being obese, there are other factors to consider. There seems to be a disconnect between knowledge & behaviors.

How Often Consumers Think That They Eat A Healthy Diet

pie chart showing how often consumers claim to eat healthy

According to medical experts, a healthy & well balanced diet should come from carbohydrates that include mostly green leafy vegetables and fruit, healthy fats, and proteins. There are specific guidelines to help Americans plan their meals, but how are Americans measuring up to the dietary standards?

Where Should Calories Come From In A Healthy And Well-Balanced Diet?

Around 90% of adults don’t consume the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables - they only consume vegetables about 1.1 times a day and fruit only slightly more at 1.6 times a day. The CDC recommends at least 1 ½ to 2 cups per day of fruit and 2-3 cups per day of vegetables for an adult eating a 2000 kcal diet.

Current Fruit And Vegetable Consumption In The US Statistics

  • Americans consume fruit 1.6 times/day
  • Americans consume vegetables 1.1 times/day
  • 90% of adults don’t get the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables

Only 13% of Americans meet the recommended intake of vegetables, and 71% of Americans consume too much saturated fats. This information below shows the prevalence that Americans meet the current dietary guidelines.

Percent of Americans that meet recommended intake of different foods:

Foods/Nutrients

% meet recommended

% don't meet recommended

Vegetables

13%

87% (not enough)

Fruit

25%

75% (not enough)

Total Grains

56%

44% (not enough)

Protein

58%

42% (not enough)

Sodium

11%

89%  (too much)

Saturated Fats

29%

71% (too much)

Americans are Trying to Eat Healthy

Americans are trying to better themselves. Over ⅓ of Americans have followed a diet in the last year, and around 29% of people have tried to eat smaller portions within the last year. The top reasons Americans give for wanting to eat healthier are cardiovascular health and weight loss. Increasing energy, improving brain function & improving digestive health are some other reasons people give. 

TOP 5 of American’s desired health benefits for eating healthy

  1. 1
    Cardiovascular health - 20%
  2. 2
    Weight loss or management - 18%
  3. 3
    Energy - 13%
  4. 4
    Brain function - 9%
  5. 5
    Digestive health - 7%

Around 36% Americans have followed some sort of diet in the past year. The most popular including one or both of  intermittent fasting, and some type of carbohydrate restrictive eating. These diets include  paleo, low-carb, Whole30, high-protein & high-fat. Perhaps it’s because of the conflicting information out there, but only 45% of dieting Americans are confident that their diet will give them positive results. 

Most popular diets used by dieters

  1. 1
    Intermittent fasting - 10%
  2. 2
    Paleo - 7%
  3. 3
    Low-carb - 5%
  4. 4
    Whole30 - 5%
  5. 5
    High - protein - 4%
  6. 6
    High-fat - 3%

Regardless of the diet method you choose to follow, most diet and nutrition experts agree with removing “white carbs” - white, refined grains & sugars, including those in sugary drinks like soda, will help reduce a multitude of health issues. Around 50% of people try to avoid foods with added sugars. 

In a survey conducted from 2013-2019, consumers were asked to rate which calorie sources are responsible for gaining weight. Compared to data from 2013, more people now rate sugar as the source of calories most likely to cause weight gain. In 2013, 30% of respondents to a nutrition survey thought that all sources of calories had equal potential to cause weight gain while 22% thought sugar was the culprit. Now, only 25% think that all sources have the same potential, while 27% of the respondents think that sugar is the top reason for weight gain.

While sparking debate among the paleo community, some nutritionists and doctors also say that adding whole grains can reduce heart disease by as much as 33%. Decreasing sodium intake can help reduce heart disease and stroke risk. Much of the sodium consumed is present in processed meals and convenience foods, like ready meals and fast food. Swapping darker meat for fish can help reduce some types of  cancer by up to 21%.  

By eliminating snacking, and having well rounded meals by adding the foods that attribute most to weight loss can help immensely. These foods include nuts, vegetables and yogurt.

Healthy Food Market

Big Business has wasted no time trying to increase their profits by making “healthy” food at the lowest cost. The healthy foods market continues to grow,  perhaps because more and more people are trying to eat healthy, but they also want convenience.

The global market for healthy food was on target to hit $1 trillion in 2019. And what’s more, 30% of food companies are invested in making healthy foods of some kind. Labels like “all natural” or “cage-free,” etc etc are all over packaging these days, and people are willing to pay the premiums for these labels. 

88% of the people surveyed was they would be willing to pay more money for healthier foods. But here we have to see what is being defined as “healthy.” It’s such an arbitrary term. 

For example, 71% of Americans think that granola bars are healthy, but only 28% of nutritionists think they are healthy. Many granola bars and loaded with sugars, sweeteners, and refined grains - making it only slightly “healthier” than a candy bar. 

It’s more important to know which ingredients are healthy and scrutinize labels to make the decision for yourself. 

Regardless of what diet you follow, by eating real food with minimal ingredients you can easily pronounce is a way to ensure you’re following a healthier lifestyle. 

Cost of Eating Healthy

There are some estimates that eating healthy costs about $1.50 more per day per person. Over the course of a year, it costs about $550 more to eat healthy per person - so for a family of 4 that’s about $2000. That extra money is difficult to come by for many American families.

However, the issue is not cut & dry. The average American spends about $1200/year on fast food, so for 2 working adults that would be about $2400/year. With ⅓ of Americans eating fast food every day, and most American families eating fast food 1-3 times a week. It’s estimated that the average American household spends about 10% of their annual income on fast food. 

It’s estimated that Americans waste 25% of the food they buy, so perhaps it is not as expensive to eat healthy as we think. 77% of vegetables and 47% of fruits are largely affordable at less than $0.80/ cup. Frozen and canned fruits & vegetables are also available at affordable prices. 

  • Eating healthy costs about $1.50 more per day than eating unhealthy per person
  • Over a year, it costs about $550 more to eat healthy
  • For a family of 4, that’s about $2,000 more
  • 1 in 8 Americans lack the resources to buy healthy food
  • 77% of vegetables and 47% of fruit are largely affordable at less than 80 cents per cup

Healthy Eating Statistics


Resources and Downloads

Data Sources

  • health.gov
  • cdc.gov
  • healio.com
  • healthypeople.gov
  • upfluence.com
  • npr.org
  • nationalpost.com
  • inc.com
  • hhs.gov
  • cspinet.org
  • thehealthyeatingguide.com
  • ers.usda.gov
  • statista.com
  • restaurant.org
  • hsph.harvard.com