America's Diet Gets Grade

October 15, 2013

The CSPI recently released a report card for American’s eating habits, and it isn’t a report you’d want to post on the fridge.

The CSPI recently released a report card for American’s eating habits, and as they put it, it isn’t a report you’d want to post on the fridge. Fruits and vegetables have barely budged, the cheese craze shows no signs of slowing down, and we’re eating 450 calories more per day than we did in 1970.

Yes, there are some signs of improvement. We’re cutting back on sugar, shortening, beef, whole milk, and white flour. And we’re eating more chicken and yogurt. But we’re transitioning slowly.

One way to see the bigger picture is to look at where our calories come from. Most of the increase has come from eating more flour, more cheese, and more fats, with an extra shot of sugar thrown in.

Bottom line? Americans need to eat more veggies and crowd out the red meat, cheese, starches, and sweets. If we want straight A’s from CSPI, we’ve got a little work to do.

Here is how the CSPI graded us.

Meat, Poultry, and Seafood: B - It seems our red meat consumption is going down but is still higher than chicken and seafood combined. The biggest obstacle in seafood is Americans feel they don’t know how to cook it – easy solutions for retailers include providing recipes, classes and demos in store to get Americans comfortable with healthy, easy to cook and tasty seafood options. Also highlight frozen seafood that is easy to cook when shoppers are in a pinch. 

Dairy: C- According to CSPI Americans add cheese to everything, and we’ve jumped from eight pounds per person per year in 1970 to 23 pounds. Not all cheese and dairy results in bad grades. Low-fat dairy as well as Greek yogurt are both very popular which might give us a boost going forward. Continue to promote Greek yogurt as a healthy, protein rich snack or meal addition. Demo sharp cheeses as a way to garnish meals versus loading a dish with mild cheese.

Fruits and Veggies: B-  We’re getting better in this department, but very slowly. Here are some tips: make half your plate veggies with lunch and dinner, have fruit for dessert, and add berries to the morning routine. The Lempert Report also suggests directing shoppers to what’s in season, direct them to buy frozen if necessary (but read labels – should only be 100% fruit) and to make sure cut fruit or veg is handy as shoppers and their families will be more likely to eat it.

Grains: C  We are consuming almost 110 pounds of flour per year, but unfortunately it isn't from whole grains. Fall is a hearty time of year and a great time to promote the whole grains with a great bite – sample barley, buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa and more as a substitute for blood sugar spiking and bland white rice and pastas.

Overall The Lempert Report sees many solutions that can start in the supermarket to nudge shoppers in the right direction.