How we eat in America does not seem to be stacking up with how we should be eating. This should come as no surprise as we continue to see a rise in overweight, obesity, and chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A new look at a large data base of food behaviors in the US (National health and Nutrition Examination Survey or NHANES) sheds some light on several areas where we can make some improvements.
1. Snacking on the rise.
There is an overall increase in snacking in the US, with calories from in-between meals increasing from 12% of total calories to 24% of total calories from the 1970’s until today. 56% of Americans eat 3 or more snacks per day. Spacing your calories out throughout the day can be a good thing and help keep hunger down and blood sugar at a more even keel. However, if you are eating snacks on the run and grazing while doing other tasks you may be MINDLESSLY eating more calories than you need. Regardless of whether you eat 3 meals a day or 3 smaller meals and a few snacks, make sure you approach each eating occasion MINDFULLY without distraction.
2. Skipping lunch.
The number of Americans eating breakfast has increased. However, the number of Americans skipping lunch has increased with 20% skipping the mid-day meal. Skipping meals is not a recipe for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Skipping meals has been shown to increase the number of calories consumed at the next meal even more than the calories you would have consumed in the meal you missed.
3. Decrease in vegetable consumption.
Since the 1970’s fruit consumption has remained constant while vegetable consumption has declined. 25% of Americans eat ZERO fruits or vegetables each day. Eating more low calorie vegetables is always the first thing I recommend to someone wanting to improve their diet for whatever reason – especially if their goal is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
We can take some very simple tips from this new look at how Americans eat.
- Be MINDFUL of each eating occasion.
- Don’t skip meals.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.