American Diet Statistics

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By Rebekah Pierce

Reviewed by Juliana Tamayo, MS, RDN - Last Updated

american diet statistics

The average American diet is filled with unhealthy foods. This can negatively impact our health, as evidenced by the data that shows rising obesity rates, declining life expectancy, and increasing rates of chronic disease in the United States. 

Let’s look at some of the statistics that reveal what exactly Americans are eating. 

What Percentage of Americans Eat Healthy?

Eating healthy is a challenge for people in the United States. With fast food and convenience foods being so easily accessible and affordable, people often choose an unhealthy lifestyle over a healthy one. 

Many Americans claim to eat a healthy diet – about 75%, according to NPR.

american diet statistic

Yet according to some estimates, less than 10 percent of Americans actually eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. This number indicates that most Americans are not meeting the USDA’s daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake. 

This is particularly concerning because many experts believe that diet plays a key role in preventing various health issues. Therefore, if more Americans were able to adopt healthier eating habits, it could lead to improved public health outcomes overall.

American Diet Statistics – Highlights

  • 71.8% of Americans eat fast food out of convenience, while only 37.6% say they eat it for its taste.
  • It has been estimated that poor diet and physical inactivity contributed to nearly 17% of US deaths in 2000, compared to just 14% in 1990.
  • About 95% of adults consume vegetables every day.
  • 20% of adults consume seafood at least twice per week. 
  • About 35% of adults in the US are obese, and this is expected to increase by 50% within the next 15 years.

71.8% of Americans eat fast food out of convenience, while only 37.6% say they eat it for its taste.

Source: Statista

It’s no surprise that convenience plays a major role in our dietary decisions. Fast food is quick and easy to get, and many people simply don’t have the time or energy to make home-cooked meals every day. This statistic highlights the importance of making healthy options more accessible for those who rely heavily on fast food for their daily meals. 

Ultraprocessed foods make up 90% of added sugars intake and 60% of calories in the United States.

Source: Nutrition and Metabolism 

Processed foods are designed with flavor and shelf life in mind rather than nutrition content—which means they often contain high levels of sugar and sodium without much nutritional value. 

It has been estimated that poor diet and physical inactivity contributed to nearly 17% of US deaths in 2000, compared to just 14% in 1990.

Source: National Library of Medicine

American diets are far from healthy. In fact, the statistics paint a grim picture of our current dietary habits. Poor diet and physical inactivity contributed to nearly 17% of US deaths in 2000 compared to just 14% in 1990, according to the National Library of Medicine. These numbers are only expected to get worse, and this statistic makes it clear that we need to do more to take charge of our own health and well-being. 

About 95% of adults consume vegetables every day.

Source: CDC

This is encouraging because vegetables are an essential part of any balanced diet; they provide vital vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients that help keep us healthy and strong. 

Eating more vegetables is one simple way to improve your overall health! However, it’s important to keep in mind that this statistic references only adults who eat “some” vegetables – not the full five servings as recommended by most health experts. 

american diet vegetables

About 17% of US adults were on a special diet (for weight loss or another health-related reason) in 2018.

Source: CDC

This likely reflects an awareness among Americans that our collective diet is unhealthy and needs to change. 

However, it does not necessarily mean that people are making changes that will have a lasting impact on their health. It could also be indicative of “yo-yo” dieting, which involves repeatedly gaining and losing weight over time due to frequent fad dieting cycles rather than developing sustainable eating habits. 

20% of adults consume seafood at least twice per week. 

Source: CDC

While this may seem like good news, it is important to note that most seafood consumed in the US is farmed rather than wild-caught, which impacts the overall health benefit of the seafood and also has environmental impacts. 

Fisheries are becoming increasingly overfished as demand continues to grow, so it is important for consumers to make sustainable choices when purchasing fish products if we want them to remain available for future generations. 

Not only that, but there are some cultural variations in how much of us eat seafood, with some Americans (such as Hispanic Americans) being much more likely to consume seafood regularly than others. 

About 35% of adults in the US are obese, and this is expected to increase by 50% within the next 15 years.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

This alarming statistic should serve as a wake-up call for many Americans that our diets need major reform if we want future generations to be healthier than ourselves. 

We must collectively become more mindful about what we put into our bodies if we want any chance at reversing this trend so that future generations can enjoy better overall health outcomes than those before them. 

More than two-thirds of adults older than 20 consumed fruit every day, with fruit consumption higher among women (70.5%) than men (63.8%). 

Source: CDC

This could be because women are more likely to make conscious dietary choices with their health in mind than men are. It’s also possible that certain women have access to healthier foods due to certain socio-economic factors such as income level or education level. 

82% of children and adolescents eat breakfast on any given day.

Source: CDC

This statistic could be attributed to the fact that most parents understand how important it is for their kids to start their day with a balanced meal. Without breakfast, children can suffer from reduced focus and energy levels throughout the day, making it difficult for them to stay on top of their studies or other activities. Many schools now offer subsidized breakfast programs that make it possible for students to get low-cost or free breakfast at school just as they do lunch, too. 

32% of our calories come from animal foods, 57% from processed plant foods, and only 11% from vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and whole grains, according to the USDA.

Source: Nutrition Facts

This could be due in part to our busy lifestyles; many people opt for quick meals like fast food or pre-packaged snacks rather than taking the time to prepare fresh vegetables or whole grains at home. Plus, processed plant foods tend to be cheaper than fresh produce, which makes them an attractive option for those on a tight budget. 

The percentage of adults who consumed fruit or vegetables on a given day increases with income. 

Source: CDC

american diet statistic 2

This could simply be because those with higher incomes generally have access to fresher produce due to their increased buying power as well as better nutrition education resources so they can make healthier dietary choices overall. 

Between 2015 and 2018, water accounted for more than half of all nonalcoholic beverage consumption among US adults. 

Source: CDC

This indicates that water is an important part of many Americans’ diets. However, while water is essential for good health, it is only one component of a balanced diet. 

96% of Americans don’t reach the minimum for greens or beans each week.

Source: National Cancer Institute

This means that most people aren’t consuming enough vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, or legumes such as black beans and kidney beans. Eating these foods is essential for a healthy diet because they contain essential vitamins and minerals that can help reduce inflammation and improve overall health. 

Compared to women, men consume more sweetened beverages, coffee, and fruit beverages, and less water and tea. 

Source: CDC

Sweetened beverages can be high in added sugar which can lead to weight gain over time if consumed in large quantities regularly. It is important for both men and women to limit their consumption of sweetened beverages in order to maintain a healthy weight and prevent chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease.  

Final Thoughts

It is clear from these statistics that Americans need to pay closer attention to their diets if they want to improve their health outcomes. 

Eating whole foods rather than processed ones is essential for maintaining optimum health; however, it is not always easy, given our busy lifestyles and lack of access to fresh produce in certain areas.

It’s up to us as individuals—as well as policymakers —to make sure we are making healthier dietary choices. That way, we can all live longer lives free from chronic illness or disease caused by poor nutritional habits.

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Rebekah Pierce

Rebekah Pierce is a professional writer specializing in a variety of niches, including health and fitness. Her unique blend of experience managing and owning a regenerative farm, along with a background working in both secondary and higher education, gives her the versatility needed to write about a variety of topics. She has a B.A. in English and a M.S.Ed. in Special Education. She's an avid runner, having completed multiple marathons and half marathons, and believes in the profound power of overall health, wellness, and good nutrition when it comes to changing lives!