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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Chow Line: Most of us need more produce, dairy (for 4/13/08)

April 4, 2008

Do most Americans meet the U.S. Dietary Guidelines?

Boy, do we. And then some! At least in some categories.

But we don't come close in others.

As you might guess, this is not necessarily a good thing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service recently estimated how well Americans meet the Dietary Guidelines in a report, "Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in U.S. Food Consumption, 1970-2005." Using recommendations for a person on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, the study's authors estimated how well Americans might be meeting the Dietary Guidelines.

Unfortunately, it appears that Americans aren't eating nearly enough fruit, vegetables or dairy products. In fact, on average, Americans seem to be eating less than one cup of fruit a day (less than half the recommendation). Vegetable consumption wasn't much better, averaging 1.7 cups a day instead of the 2.5 cups recommended. And instead of the three cups of milk or dairy products recommended per day, Americans consumed just 1.8 cups.

At the same time, we're over-consuming other foods. The authors blame these trends for the nation's staggering obesity rate, which reached 32 percent in 2005, compared with 15 percent in 1976-80.

Some of the over-consumption trends identified in the report, online at, include:

  • Americans are overeating total grains while under-consuming whole grains. People eating 2,000 calories a day should consume a total of six ounces of grains per day, half of which should be whole grains. According to the study, Americans actually average 8.1 ounces of grains per day, with a mere 0.9 ounces of them being whole grains.
  • American consumption of added fats and oils reached nearly 72 grams of fat per day, accounting for 32 percent of calories. This total includes only fats added to foods, such as butter and margarine, salad dressings and other fats and oils. It doesn't include fats naturally present in foods, such as the fat in meat, cheese and other products. This indicates the average American drastically overeats fats and oils, given that the Guidelines recommend keeping total fat consumption to between 20 percent and 35 percent of calories per day.
  • Americans appear to have a sweet tooth. The Dietary Guidelines recommend keeping added sugars to a minimum -- equating to about eight teaspoons per day if you're on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. But the researchers estimate that actual consumption is closer to 30 teaspoons a day, a figure that includes high-sugar soft drinks as well as processed foods and baked goods.


Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Hugo Melgar-Quinonez, nutrition specialist with Ohio State University Extension and assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition in the College of Education and Human Ecology.

Martha Filipic
Hugo Melgar-Quinonez