How the American Diet Has Changed

Written by Sophie Ringer

America has changed a lot in the last 50 years. Hair trends, language and diet have all evolved. Research and developments have led Americans to make many dietary changes, such as eating chicken instead of red meat and choosing almond milk over whole milk. Today, food is cheaper and more available than ever before, which may not be a good thing! Here are a few ways the American diet has changed in the last 40 years.

  1. Americans are eating more grains, fats, oils and sugars. Research done by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that Americans are eating more grains, fats, oils, sugars and artificial sweeteners. Business Insider determined the averages of just how much each food group has increased between 1961 and 2013.
  2. -Sugar: The average daily calories from sugar and artificial sweeteners have increased from 515 calories to 600 calories per day.

    -Grains: The average daily calories from grains have risen from 627 calories to 801 calories per day.

    -Oil: The average daily calorie consumption of vegetable oil has increased by over 400 calories, from 276 calories to 689 calories per day. Research suggests that the Americans consume about 23.2% of their daily calories from the fats and oils group and most of the consumption of the oil is coming in the form of vegetable oils such as corn, canola and soybean.  

  3. Calorie Increase. Between 1961 and 2013 the average American’s caloric intake increased by 24%. Business Insider says that in 2013 the average American’s caloric intake was 3,600 calories a day, compared to 1961 where the average calorie intake was 2,880 calories. Now that we are approaching 2018, it would be interesting to know if that percent increased even more! If those numbers keep rising, so will our bathroom scale! According to USDA, a moderately active male, between ages 26-45, should eat around 2,600 calories a day. While a moderately active female, between ages 26-45, should eat around 2,200 calories a day.
  4. Americans are drinking less milk. Remember all those “Got Milk?” ads? Well there was a reason for those; milk intake has decreased significantly in the last few decades. According to the USDA, in the 1970s the average American drank around 30 gallons of milk a year and in 2016, the average American drank around 18 gallons a year.

    “Moms are still key decision makers when it comes to what kids are drinking,” says Julie Kadison, the chief executive officer at MilkPep. “With moms choosing alternatives, soy, almond, coconut and the like, kids are embracing those options well.”

  5. The USDA said that between 1970-2013 whole milk consumption decreased by 79 percent!

  6. More chicken and less beef. The U.S Department of Agriculture says that in 1970, people consumed more than twice as much beef than chicken. Now, according to Pew research, Americans eat more chicken than beef. Two possible reasons for the decline could be health concerns surrounding red meat and/or pricing. Red meat is linked to heart disease and diabetes, and is high in saturated fat. Prices for beef have been rising as well. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of ground beef  was below $2.50 per pound in 2010. Now the price is around $3.75 per pound.
  7. Cheese Please! Research done by the Center for Science in The Public Interest suggests that Americans are eating more cheese. In 1970, the average American ate eight pounds of cheese a year, and in 2010 the average consumption for cheese per year was 23 pounds. The increased cheese consumption could be correlated to fast food and processed food companies.
  8. Fast Food.  According to the fast food industry is growing at a significant rate; in 1970 America’s fast food revenue was $6 billion and in 2015 the revenue rose to $200 billion. Though you may be surprised to hear that it’s not all about the burgers and fries. According to business insider, pizza and mexican food chains are thriving. In particular, Domino’s has been doing well. Business Insider reported that in the last nine years, Domino’s nearly doubled its sales, reaching $10.9 billion in 2016, compared to $5.5 billion in 2008.Sources:
  • Spiegel, A. (2014, January 02). Chicken More Popular Than Beef In U.S. For First Time In 100 Years. Retrieved November 09, 2017, from
  • S. (2017, June 03). 7 Big Ways the Average American Diet Has Changed Since 1970. Retrieved November 09, 2017, from
  • DeSilver, D. (2016, December 13). What’s on your table? How America’s diet has changed over the decades. Retrieved November 09, 2017, from
  • We eat three times as much cheese now as we did in 1970. (2013, September 23). Retrieved November 09, 2017, from
  • (n.d.). Retrieved November 09, 2017, from
  • Jaaskelainen, L. (n.d.). Topic: Fast food industry. Retrieved November 09, 2017, from
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