USDA Survey: Americans are Making Healthier Food Choices

food choices
General Health

food choicesI admit, when writing about natural foods and the state of the US food industry, I often refer to the diet of “average Americans” in a very negative light, and I’m not alone. But a new survey from the USDA reveals American adults are eating better and becoming more conscientious about what we put in our mouths. The trend is one worth applauding as the effort to eat right and abstain from processed and fast foods is not easy in this country where food makers care more about profits than public health.

According to a press release from the USDA, attitudes toward food have changed significantly between 2005 and 2010. Americans are eating fewer calories and more fiber, we are getting less of their calories from saturated fat (even though the vilification of such fats is based in questionable science), and we are consuming less cholesterol (again, not entirely a bad thing).

The criteria for the survey are far from perfect, with the most positive take-aways from the survey being in relation to the consumption of fast foods. Reduced consumption of these “foods away from home” accounted for 20% of the improvements noted by the USDA. During the recent recession between 2007 and 2009, food expenditures overall decline about 5% (a significant drop). Much of this was due to a 12.9 decline in the amount spent on food away from home.

Decreased restaurant and fast food consumption led to an average drop of 127 calories per adult per day as the average US adult ate three fewer meals and 1.5 fewer snacks away from home.

Also of note, Americans are feeling more in charge of their health. From 2007 to 2010, the number of American adults who believed they had the ability to change their body weight increased by 3%.

“When individuals believe that their actions directly affect their body weight, they might be more inclined to make healthier food choices,” explained Jessica Todd, Ph.D., of the Economic Research Service.

For their part, the USDA credits their “science-based nutrition information and advice” in influencing the habits of American adults. But the USDA isn’t alone, and can’t be counted on for objective food advice. More than ever, consumers are looking to educate themselves on matters of nutrition and sites like NaturalSociety are there to provide the research and commentary.

Eating well in this society is not easy. Food makers responsible for putting poor substitutes for actual food on shelves spend billions to wage marketing warfare on our households every year. It takes consistent and concentrated effort to counter this. But if this survey holds true, we are doing a great job of taking control.

Hopefully the number of people speaking out against pesticides and GMOs and consuming more organic foods will continue to increase in the coming years.