America’s Poor Eating Habits

Nick Luiz
3 min readApr 7, 2023

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A medical journal BMJ Open study says that 90 percent of Americans maintain unhealthy diets. The same study found that a quarter of the national population engages in no physical activity whatsoever. Several factors contribute to the country’s unhealthy eating habits.

Fast food is a major part of the American food landscape. One out of three Americans eats fast food at least once per day. While some fast food chains have introduced diverse menus that may feature healthier items, a report from Medical News Today found that the average order has increased in calories, portion size, and sodium content.

The prevalence of fast food has been directly linked to the nation’s obesity crisis: 42.4 percent of American adults qualify as obese, while an additional 30.7 percent are overweight. Nearly one in 10 adults is severe obesity, while a third of children aged 2 to 19 qualify as obese.

Fast food is not the only nationwide eating habit that negatively impacts the average American’s diet. Over the years, prepackaged meals have grown in popularity, diminishing the fresh food most Americans eat. A 2021 study published by New York University determined that ultra-processed foods, such as frozen pizza and canned soup, are more popular than ever.

The study spanned 18 years and included 41,000 adult participants. Over this period, ultra-processed foods’ average daily caloric intake increased from 53.5 percent to 57 percent, while whole food consumption fell from 32.7 percent to 27.4 percent.

The national obesity problem is only one symptom of the nation’s poor dietary and exercise habits. Unhealthy food paired with a sedentary lifestyle can result in severe health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, which excess weight can further complicate.

Most Americans consume 2,500 to 3,600 calories daily, though these numbers can run far higher. Physicians recommend a daily caloric intake of 2,500 for men and 2,000 for women, meaning some Americans are approaching or exceeding twice the suggested daily caloric intake.

Only 16 percent of the average American’s caloric intake comes from protein, compared to 22 percent from added sugar. Almost half of the daily calorie count comes from carbohydrates and 36 percent from fat. Again, ultra-processed foods are major concerns, accounting for 90 percent of added sugars and up to 60 percent of calories.

While addressing the national health profile is a massive, complex undertaking, convenience may be the best place to start. In 2021, nearly three out of four Americans responding to a survey said they eat fast food regularly because it is convenient, but only one in three said they truly enjoyed the taste of fast food. If Americans can figure out how to make healthy food as convenient as fast food, there could be a significant positive impact on fast food consumption.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity, such as walking, in addition to two days of muscle-strengthening exercise. Workouts can be broken up into small segments over the week for individuals with little time to exercise.

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Nick Luiz
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An alumnus of Ashford University, Nick Luiz earned a bachelor of science in organizational management and a dean’s list distinction.