I’ve been on a Halloween candy diet while studying for a series of midterm exams, which started me wondering “what does America eat?”
I have an idea an inkling of what America eats. After all I am an American, have been for quite some time now and I’m pretty fond of food. When preparing for this post I googled “what America eats” just to see what the internet had to say on the matter.
Well the internet had a lot to say, and much of it was secularized into special interest groups like the bean cooperative, grapes are great, or the White American Cheese foundation. I’m making the names up, but the fact that each special interest (food) group had their own site is completely true.
Feeling frustrated I resorted to the federal government sites, thinking that there would be the holy grail of nutritional information on what America eats. Here’s what I found.
The USDA features a website that discloses “what we eat in America” with data compiled yearly since 2001, each 2 year period is categorized and cataloged. The last period available is 2007-2008. What is apparent at first glance is that at statistic rich as this site is, there’s no commentary on what America actually eats. It’s a data mining site and you have to dig around to find anything that resembles an actual listing of what America eats. After 20 minutes of clicking through one useless graph after another I surrendered and entered another search.
My second hit was the state specific USDA.gov site which was actually enlightening in some ways. Access the site and select from a map of the country a state that you wish to view. I chose Washington of course and got a lovely listing of the national average consumption of all of the nutritional components as well as a demographic of the population of the state. Great information, but it didn’t tell me what America eats. It tells me how we stack up nutritionally against the national average. Not the same thing at all.
Next I tried the FAST STATs, site to see how nutrition stacked up against all the statistics managed for disease in America. What I found was information like; issues with men’s health, access to health care, rates of Alzheimer’s, that kind of stuff, and nutrition didn’t even blip the radar. In a list of items of public health importance, nutrition didn’t make the list, but exercise, dementia, and physical activity did.
So far from what I can tell our federal government wants to monitor what we eat but doesn’t provide comprehensive facts about the substance behind the numbers.
The website Nutrition .gov spells out the American dietary pyramid (there are many of these pyramids around the world) or the perfect scenario of what we should eat. The site also provides ways to track our eating patterns, and links to our opinions about what we eat. Again not really the answer I was looking for.
All I can really surmise from the evidence that I’ve found is that we Americans eat what we want, when we want it, in the amounts that feel comfortable to us. We value quality over quantity if we can afford it, or if we are aware of the difference. We will opt for organic over the mass usage of pesticides and fertilizers when we can afford it, although many times it makes no significant difference in the nutritional value of the foodstuff.
We often are undereducated or misinformed and make bad choices due to economic reasons, or for the sake of expediency and some times we’re just lazy.
In the land of plenty we have an abundance of choices and make our selections by how a chosen food makes us feel or what we had a taste for that day. Not by rational choice, and certainly not in response to what is good for us. America is a conglomeration of individuals and it is the individual choice that matters most.
What is relevant about this question isn’t what America eats, but what do you eat? How do your choices affect your life, your health, and the health of your family.