What We Should Eat vs What We Do Eat: The American Diet

How many calories do you think the average American consumes in a day? (see end for answer)

TED Talk on Nutrition of the Children in the US

What is the Problem?: The Background

What is Obesity?

  • 20% or more over the desirable weight for men
  • 25% or more over the desirable weight for women
  • BMI over 30kg/m^2
This is chart of BMI and what it means.

Calculate Your BMI Using this Link

Statistics and Facts on Obesity

  • 1/3 of all adult Americans are considered obese
  • 1/6 of all child Americans are obese
  • Obesity percentage is higher in the 40-59 age group at around 40.2 percent
  • The state with the highest obesity rate is West Virginia at 37.7%
  • The states with the lowest obesity rate is Colorado at 22.3%
  • Women with college degrees have been shown to be less like to be obese than those without
  • In 2008, it was estimated that obesity cost the US $147 billion annually

The American Diet *M=male F=female*

ItemWhat We Should
What We Do
Protein50 g100 g
Carbs310 g300-500 g
30 g15 g
Sugars32 g71 g
Fat44-77 g79 g
CholesterolF:200 mg M:300 mg
F: 242 mg M: 348mg
Potassium3.5 g2.5 g
Vitamin A700-900 microgramsadequate amounts
Vitamin C75-90 mgadequate amounts
Calcium1000 mg1029 mg
Sodium<2,300mg3,400 mg
Iron15 mg15.1 mg

Why Should We Be Worried?

Obesity is not just an issue that affects your weight. It can lead to a number of different diseases that can have long-term and life-threatening effects.

  • Diabetes
  • Insulin Resistance
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
  • Heart Disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Heart Attack
  • Gout
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gallstones
  • Chronic Illnesses
  • Cancer
  • Reduced Life Expectancy
  • etc

What Can We Do Now?

Removing Sugar From Our Diets:

Many People in the US are consuming far too much sugar each day. This fact is one of the main contributors to our increasing percentage of obesity in the country. You can reduce sugar by…

  • Reducing the number of sugary drinks you consume
  • Avoid sauces with lots of sugar
  • Eat whole foods
  • Avoid sugary breakfasts
  • Replace sugar with proteins and fats
  • Try natural sweeteners

Replacing Unhealthy Snacks with Healthier Ones:

Educate Yourself on Your Diet:

Try using the app MyFitnessPal for a day or two to see what kinds of nutrition are in the food you eat on a daily basis. It can be found at this link.

What To Eat if You Are Deficient in…

ItemFood with This Item
ProteinEggs, Almonds, Chicken, Oats, Cottage Cheese
Quinoa, Oats, Buckwheat, Bananas, Sweet Potato
Pear, Strawberry, Avocado, Apple, Raspberry
Fruits, Milk, Vegetables
Fat (good)Avocados, Cheese, Dark Chocolate, Whole Eggs
CholesterolFried Foods, Fast Food, Processed Meats, Desserts
PotassiumAvocados, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Watermelon
Vitamin ABeef Liver, Lamb Liver, Liver Sausage, Salmon
Vitamin CPlums, Cherries, Chili + Yellow Peppers, Guavas
CalciumSeeds, Cheese, Yogurt, Sardines, Beans
SodiumYeast bread, Pizza, Cold Cuts, Burritos, Soups
IronShellfish, Spinach, Liver, Legumes, Red Meat

…or Eat Less of These Foods if You Are High in an Item

Answer: 3800 calories a day

“10 High-Fat Foods That Are Actually Super Healthy” Healthline, 4 Jun. 2017,

“11 Healthy Foods That Are Very High in Iron” Healthline, 18 July 2018,

“11 High-Cholesterol Foods—Which to Eat, Which to Avoid” Healthline, 10 Sept. 2018,

“12 High-Carb Foods That Are Actually Super Healthy” Healthline, 11 Sept. 2018,

“14 Simple Ways to Stop Eating Lots of Sugar” Healthline, 22 May 2017,

“15 Foods That Pack More Potassium Than a Banana” Healthline, 26 July 2018,

“20 Delicious High-Protein Foods to Eat” Healthline, 21 Apr. 2018,

“20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin A” Healthline, 19 Apr. 2017,

“20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin C” Healthline, 5 Jun. 2018,

“22 High-Fiber Foods You Should Eat” Healthline, 10 Aug. 2018,

AHA Sodium Reduction Initiative Team. “Top 25 Foods That Add the Most Sodium to Your Diet.” Healthy for Good Blog,

“The American Diet.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,

Balentine, Jerry R. “Obesity Causes, Treatment &amp; BMI.” MedicineNet,

“Calcium Supplements: Should You Take Them?” Healthline, 22 Oct. 2016,

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Consumers – Use the Nutrition Facts Label to Reduce Your Intake of Sodium in Your Diet.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition,

Chapter 6 Fats,

“Craving THIS? You Really Need THIS… | Veeeeeegan… in 2019 | Food Craving Chart, Food Cravings, Cravings Chart.” Pinterest, 28 Feb. 2019,

Downing, Sam. “What Body Mass Index Means, and How to Calculate Yours.” What Is Your Body Mass Index – 9Coach, Coach, 8 Apr. 2019,

Egan, Sophie. “How Much Protein Do We Need?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 July 2017,

“Healthy Eating, Made Easy. Front-of-Pack Labelling for Food and Drink in Australia. – Daily Intake Levels.” Daily Intake Guide,

“Healthy Fat Intake.” Cleveland Clinic,

“How Much Cholesterol Should I Be Having Each Day to Be Healthy?” Healthline, 2 Jan. 2019,

“How Much Is Too Much?”, 8 Dec. 2018,

Jessica-Wick. “The Average Number of Calories Americans Eat Every Day May Surprise You.” The Cheat Sheet, The Cheat Sheet, 25 May 2018,

Newman, Tim. “Obesity: Facts and Statistics.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International,

“Obesity Information | MyVMC.” HealthEngine Blog, 21 Mar. 2019,

Oliver, Jamie. “Teach Every Child about Food.” TED,

“Office of Dietary Supplements – Iron.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

“Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin A.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

“The Standard American Diet — SAD | Health Blogs | Diet, Protein Diets, Diet Chart.” Pinterest,,

“Top 15 Calcium-Rich Foods (Many Are Non-Dairy)” Healthline, 27 July 2018,

“What Are the Warning Signs of Heart Disease?” SilverSneakers, 19 Sept. 2018,

“What Foods Have Good Sugars for Your Body?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group,

Xu, Zhe, et al. “Dietary Cholesterol Intake and Sources among U.S Adults: Results from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), 2001⁻2014.” Nutrients, MDPI, 14 June 2018,

Share this project
  1. April 25, 2019 by Laura.Reysz

    Grace, what a powerful and influential presentation. I especially appreciate your willingness to share in your personal video.

  2. April 25, 2019 by Luis Mendoza Perezz

    Hi Gracie, I loved reading your presentation! Do you think that America has a huge culture of consumption? I feel like not only do Americans tend to eat more but they also tend to just buy more things too. Do you think nutrition should be a mandatory class in high school to combat this?

    • April 28, 2019 by Grace.Paul

      I definitely feel like there is a large consumer culture in America and I am sure that contributes to the nature of our eating habits. I definitely think there needs to be more education on specific nutrition for teenagers in high school. We always hear “eat healthy” and “exercise”, but nothing more specific than that.

  3. April 26, 2019 by Liza

    Grace, your title drew me to your page, but your information kept me here. It was interesting to see how we should be eating versus how we actually are eating. This presentation definitely helped open my eyes to become more conscious of what I eat. I also appreciated your video you included on why you chose this project. Good job!

  4. April 26, 2019 by Aria Chang

    Hi Grace,

    I loved how informative your presentation was! It must have taken a lot of time and careful research to compile all of those statistics.

    One question that I had was regarding calorie intake tracking: How can we accurately track the number of calories that we are consuming? I’ve seen studies that have shown that as things such as bananas get riper, the calories increase as well. Isn’t it relatively difficult to nail down exactly how much we’re putting into our bodies?

    • April 28, 2019 by Grace.Paul

      I don’t know that there will ever be a perfect way to understand the exact number of calories we are consuming. I think what is more important is the type of calories we are consuming. For example, apples and a lollipop both have a large portion of sugar but everyone agrees that the sugar in an apple than the sugar in the candy. The same goes for the misconception that fewer calories means healthier.

  5. April 26, 2019 by Merrill.Buczek

    Grace, this information is so important and I hope plenty of people get the chance to see this. A healthy body and mind start with a healthy diet! This presentation not only educated me, but also is a helpful in figuring how I can implement the information in my day to day life.

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