This Is What You Eat

If you are what you eat, this graphic from Visual Economics may not make for the best inspirational reading. Then again, is there really anything so bad about drinking 53 gallons of soda or eating 85 pounds of fat and oil each year? (No, you don’t have to answer that.)

Food Consumption in America [Visual Economics]


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  1. Xero says:

    Wait, 600 pounds of dairy excluding cheese and milk? What the hell does that leave?!

    • ieatcatastrophe says:

      ice cream, butter, whipping cream, ect.

    • Fujikopez says:

      That’s a helluva lotta ice cream.

      • KeithIrwin says:

        If you follow the link, they also show the total amount of ice cream on the page: 24 pounds per year. So, if you do the math, that leaves 395 pounds per year of dairy which isn’t milk, cheese, or ice cream. I’m also not sure if butter counts as dairy or as fats. I would put it in fats. So that leaves 395 pounds per year of cream (fresh, whipped, sour), half-and-half, yogurt (and maybe cottage cheese), whey, and milk solids in other foods. I have more than a little trouble believing that. I don’t have the time right now to go back and check their source numbers, but I can’t help but wonder if someone missed a decimal or forgot to convert a unit somewhere along the lines.

    • Kitamura says:

      “Modified milk ingredients”?

    • drodalpha says:

      600 lbs of dairy including 181 lbs of milks. Apparently also not including butter as that is the icon of the 85 lbs of fats and oils. I guess the rest is yogurt and ice cream?

    • UncleAl says:

      Actually, it’s 600 lbs. of dairy products besides cheese, of which 181 lbs. is drinking milk, leaving 419 lbs. of milk products elsewhere in the diet. Think yogurt, sour cream, whipped cream and the milk contained in other products, such as most breads.

    • shepd says:

      As someone who is lactose intolerant, you’d be absolutely amazed how much dairy is in most foods. While I pick places where I don’t have to take lactase pills (often fried chicken or burgers, because hey, I like those things), every single darn place co-workers pick requires me to take them, every single time, because 80% of the menu is dairy (even the salads, because they’re often ceasar or ranch).

  2. aintgotone says:

    Well, at least we eat over 400 pounds of veggies each year!

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      One question: How does this chart compare with what we SHOULD be eating?

      • grumpskeez says:

        What kind of question is that? Are you trying to put doctors out of work? You DO know how much they pay for those degrees. The nerve of some people. Sheesh

  3. MamaBug says:

    i KNOW i consume more than 24 lbs of coffee…

    • Pax says:

      I don’t drink any coffee at all – you can have my share, if you give me some of your meat and cheese … ^_^

    • reddbettie says:

      I thought the same thing!

    • johnva says:

      I would bet that the actual consumption is higher for people who drink it at all, given that there are a lot of people who don’t drink any coffee.

    • INsano says:

      Johnva has the right idea, the same would apply for Soda. If you click through the “visual economics” link under the picture it also says the average American drinks a gallon of soda per week. I know lots of people who don’t drink any, so someone else out there is doubling up to make that average.

      If you want to be horrified, google the statistics for doughnuts. The average is like 6/american/day…leaving someone out there doubling up for me who doesn’t eat any…

      • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

        ugh? But then, when someone brings donuts into the office, it seems like half go uneaten every week. So donuts are purchased but not always consumed.

    • Timbojones says:

      Most of that is water, even in an espresso shot.

  4. ArcanaJ says:

    56 pounds of corn syrup? Bleh.

  5. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    I’m eating the cats on Consumerist.

  6. sugarplum says:

    Mmmm. Butter. At least vegetables made the list!

  7. stevejust says:

    The average American woman is 164 lbs?!?

    • ARP says:

      Yes, and “only” 5′ 4″ That’s pretty big by any definition.

      • ARP says:

        BTW- for equal sharing of blame, 5’9″, 190 is not very svelte either.

        • Geekmom says:

          It’s not exactly fat either though.

          • LadyTL says:

            And that is why the BMI does not work.

            • An_Album_Cover says:

              I would posit that the BMI works in most (>50%) cases. How many cases of invalid BMIs do you *really* see walking down the street? Seriously. The exception to the BMI guideline is for people who are really quite muscular…and that doesn’t really generally happen….

              • LadyTL says:

                I see more cases of invalid BMIs than I do the stereotypical image of an obese person walking down the street, in wal-mart, or in cars.

                • johnva says:

                  You probably don’t live in the South, then. I see dozens of morbidly obese people every day.

                  • TimothyT says:

                    Ah, you work at Wal-Mart…explains a lot.

                  • Snaptastic says:

                    I was startled when I saw those averages as well. I’m 5’3″ (and a half!) and weigh 130, so trying to imagine myself half an inch taller with 35 extra pounds–it just doesn’t work! It’s unhealthy no matter how you look at it (and no, the muscle mass can’t add up to that–I work out all the time and have more muscle than most women…people just seem to think I’m heavier than I look).

                    That evening my brother made me go to a buffet and I realized how a person could get to those proportions. A few months later I visited my parents in Mississippi and that area is definitely what is bringing the average up.

              • JamX2020 says:

                In what sense does the BMI “work”?? It’s built on the entirely absurd premise that every body is equivalent. My partner & I are the same height – 5’10” – and according to the BMI, we should weigh 153 pounds. But from spine to sternum, he’s almost twice as thick as I am. At 153 #, he would look (and probably feel) horrible.

                And then there’s the issue that the “healthy” weights recommended by the BMI don’t reflect anything so much as the diet industry’s bottom line.

                And yes, most of us are overweight – that’s the consequence of living in a culture of excess and inactivity. But it’s asinine that we would build our concept of health on a sloppily derived number.

            • qualia says:

              Huh? 5’9, 190 IS overweight. I’ve dated men taller than that at that weight and they have universally had pot bellies and could stand to have lost 20 pounds or more. Unless you’ve got an extra 30 pounds of muscle on you and no pot belly, you’re fat.

              • LadyTL says:

                I’m surprised you could even get a date with that distorted idea of body image.

                • athensguy says:

                  I fail to see the distortion in his body image. That 5’4″ 165lb person is getting close to being obese unless they’ve got an extra 35lbs of muscle.

                  • coren says:

                    But not so much at “taller than 5’9” and 190 pounds. Hell my brother is 5’11 and 200 and just by looking at him you’d probably guess 175.

                • qualia says:

                  Are you kidding? Look, maybe you haven’t travelled abroad, or maybe you live in one of the larger states, but by comparison, America is NOT healthy. It may look “normal” to you, but it’s unhealthy for 90% of people whether it makes you feel badly or not.

                  I’m not trying to make you men feel less pretty. Don’t worry, women can’t get dates if they’re overweight, but studies show men can. You still need to lose weight. Sorry.

              • pantheonoutcast says:

                I’m 6′ tall and 190 – I’m by no means fat, but I don’t have rock-hard abs, either. I’m probably carrying ten or so pounds of non-muscle weight (which is a nice way of saying “fat”) but, again, I’m not fat. You would never look at me and say, “Hey, there goes a fat guy.” If I was three inches shorter, though, I think that would be a different story.

                BMI may not work in every case (for the benefit of the person ranting about the BMI index), but being visually height-weight proportional is a good indicator. 5’4″ and 165 pounds, be it man or woman, in NOT height-weight proportional. It’s fat.

    • wetrat says:

      You’re confusing “average” with “typical” (aka median). Averages are heavily susceptible to the presence of outliers… and there are more morbidly obese people in the US than underweight; therefore, the average would tend to be on the high side. A more reasonable statistic to give would have been the median, which would be the weight where 50% are heavier and 50% are lighter.

    • smo0 says:

      At my height, 164 is fine…. I’m 5’8″.

      I looked at a BMI chart once and it said my “ideal” weight should be 125. I couldn’t imagine being that weight and NOT being sickly looking.

      My goal at my height is around 150-165… I look and feel my best with a pinup girl figure…

  8. guroth says:

    No wonder we’re all getting as big as cows, 1/4 of our diet comes from them.

  9. noinamg says:

    if only the sizes of the pie slice was actually relevant to how much of it we eat. like the 42 lbs of corn syrup wedge is almost the same size as the 134.1lb wheat flour wedge.

    • RomeoCharlie says:

      I know it might be hard to see without blowing up the graphic, but there are dashed lines sub-dividing some of the categories, which makes it look like the proportions are off. I had to look a couple of times, too.

  10. johnperkins21 says:

    Apparently I am nowhere near average. I eat way more chicken than I do all fruits and vegetables. And if that cocoa portion is supposed to include chocolate, it’s way too small.

    • Timbojones says:

      Very little of chocolate is cocoa, mostly it’s sugar & dairy.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      I think my cheese and coffee consumption sections are a lot higher…and the cocoa is too small, at least for those of us who enjoy dark chocolate every day. :) I admit to having eaten unsweetened chocolate before…

  11. pantheonoutcast says:

    Seems that the Average American could stand to either gain three inches, or lose 20 pounds.

  12. lockdog says:

    Instead of pounds of each food item, it would be more interesting to see this data represented in total calories consumed. After all, there is a big difference in calories in a pound of apples and a pound of hamburger.

  13. Cyniconvention says:

    Did anyone else expect veggies to be less than that?

    • quieterhue says:

      Notice how corn gets its own sub-category inside veggies, but but potatoes do not. You can bet a large percentage of that veggie category is potatoes.

    • Geekmom says:

      I don’t know.. could be people like veggies. My family eats lots of veggies, more so than fruit or meat. My kids get more excited about carrots at dinner time than they do chicken or beef.

    • DriverB says:

      I definitely thought there would be more meat, and the dairy seems huge!

    • zandar says:

      that, plus corn syrup, equals a lot of fries and ketchup.

  14. qualityleashdog says:

    I thought pork was the other “white” meat.
    Does this mean the average American consumes about 5.5 pounds per day, exlcuding soda, alcohol, and other “nonmilk” beverages?
    I don’t believe we’re consuming this much at all, I’m sure they’re basing these numbers on food that is sold each year. If we believe Ziploc, Americans are really just throwing away half of the food that they buy.
    Now the question is, what are they throwing away more of? I would say fruits and vegetables, people buy them with good intentions, and by the time they decide to use them, they’re rotten. So no, we’re really not consuming that many vegetables or fruits, just buying them, or leaving them on the plate when we eat out.

    • KeithIrwin says:

      Pigs are mammals, therefore pork is (and always has been) red meat just like beef, mutton, goat, venison, bison, etc. Red meat comes from mammals. White meat comes from birds, fish, and reptiles. When cooked, many cuts of pork take on a white color. This, does not, however, make it “white meat” since the term is not literal. Salmon, for example, although salmon colored, is white meat. If your doctor told you to avoid red meat, she didn’t mean to start bleaching it.

      However, this linguistic confusion combined with a lack of FDA standards for what you can call “white meat” or “red meat” has been exploited by the National Pork Board to mislead people about whether or not pork is red meat. This is an immediate response to advice to avoid red meat, and frankly, is a form of fraud. Pork is red meat. Always has been; always will be; no matter what your TV tells you.

  15. ninabi says:

    I like how the graph shows a virtuous red bell pepper representing the vegetables. I think a French fry would have been more accurate.

    • Johnmcboston says:

      Looking at that chart I was wondering where the “potato chip” wedge was. I wonder if chips and fries are under the Veggie heading, as they’re potato based…

  16. JulesWinnfield says:

    Where’s the big part for beer?

  17. ARP says:

    Three seperate comments:

    Holy crap- 2700 calories per day? There’s no way people exercise enough to burn that off; no wonder we’re huge.

    I’d be interested in them showing graphics of other countries (both 1st and 3rd world) along with their average size and lifespan.

    Are they categorizing legumes (beans, etc.) as vegetables or nuts? They’re technically a nut (I think), but then the 24lbs seems small to me.

    • LadyTL says:

      You know the human body is designed to carry some fat in case of famine or illness. It is not healthy to get rid of all the fat in the body no matter what popular belief may be.

      • TasteyCat says:

        I think you’re giving people the benefit of the doubt. Most people don’t even exercise at all, let alone enough to burn the obscene amount of calories they eat.

        The human body should have some fat, true. Not the 40% many people walk around with.

        • LadyTL says:

          How can you tell the body fat percentage someone has just by looking at them since there is no statistics on that matter since what the majority of doctors use is the BMI which is incapable of telling a person’s body fat percentage?

          • athensguy says:

            If they’re 40 lbs overweight, and can’t bench press 400 lbs, you’re probably going to be able to tell by looking. In fact, most people I know judge people that are on the lower end of obesity as “not that fat”.

          • johnva says:

            You seem to have a huge personal issue with BMI, seeing as this is the second story I’ve seen you chime in specifically to talk about that. Have you been a victim of BMI-related discrimination or something?

            The fact is, regardless of whether you think that BMI is a valid statistic or not (it is, when we’re talking about population trends and not just individual people), Americans are fat. There are mountains of evidence in this regard, and it’s not just from BMI. BMI is just a quick way of estimating body fat percentage that was invented so that large-scale studies could be done quickly and cheaply. It’s wrong to use it for things like insurance or employment discrimination, but it’s still valid to look at BMI trends across the population and judge that Americans are getting fatter and fatter. There is no denying that obesity is a massive problem for the U.S., and the evidence is all around you if you just look at other people. Our sedentary lifestyle and diet are coming back to bite us.

            • LadyTL says:

              Actually the BMI was never meant for anything regarding health, it was invented in the mid-1800s to tell the difference between the rich and the poor and has rarely been updated since. It is terrible at telling any kind of health on the individual. The widespread usage of it as well as a host of other social factors is in part what leads to poor health, i.e. the doctor writing off a “skinny” patient as healthy since they meet the BMI meaning of it while hounding the perfectly healthy person who is “obese” since they must be unhealthy no matter what anything else says.

              The overfocus on only ever losing weight versus anything else in the medical world is designed for failure. If your skeletal structure can carry more weight with no problem, they can have a higher body mass regardless of what is in it for the most part. Encouraging people to starve themselves for their entire life simple to meet an arbitrary weight goal that some will have to fight against their entire lives, and crippling their health in the process is dead wrong. The BMI does that when applied to the individual.

              As for your “mountain of evidence”, there is no wide statistics on body fat percentages in relaton to health disorders or even in the general populace. There is BMI statistics, but the BMI cannot tell how much of your body is fat. The BMI is as good a measure of health as looking at someone will tell you if they have AIDS or cancer.

              Also, one does not have to be a “victim” of BMI abuse to be outraged at the culture it has spawned.

              • johnva says:

                Once again, I AGREE that the BMI should not be applied to individuals. Your “examples” are exactly that, so you’re arguing against a strawman. But it’s definitely a valid tool for population studies, which is what the people who originated its use in the medical field carefully outlined.

                If the average BMI increases by a large amount over a 30-40 year period, then we know with pretty high certainty that people have gotten fatter, even if BMI is not a valid tool for assessing an individual’s body fat, because SOMETHING caused that change and it’s laughable to suggest that it’s primarily due to anything other than an increase in average fat levels.

                And regardless of how “accepting” we are of fat people, fat IS still associated with health problems (not so much directly because of the fat, but because of the lifestyle and diet associated with becoming fat). So it’s a major public health issue that we address the actual root causes of obesity. I don’t mean worshiping thinness blindly, but I do mean discouraging sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating. It’s not okay that little kids are getting type 2 diabetes because of how obese they are.

              • pantheonoutcast says:

                “Also, one does not have to be a “victim” of BMI abuse to be outraged at the culture it has spawned.”

                Would that be the culture of denial? Or the culture of blame-shifting?

              • Dallas_shopper says:

                Uh I’m thin as a rail and my doctor still slams me for bad habits like smoking, overconsumption of caffeine, not sleeping enough, etc. Don’t think that skinny people get an automatic “healthy” stamp. That sure as shit isn’t the case for me. I’m just as heavily scrutinized by doctors for health issues as I was when I was obese. They’re just hounding me about different things…caffeine and smoking instead of high blood pressure and potential diabetes.

                I don’t know where this myth comes from that fat people are hounded to death at the doctor and skinny people get a clean bill of health on sight. It’s bullshit.

              • qualia says:

                There HAVE been studies. Studies don’t have to be population-wide in order to be valid.

                Second, 3 years ago, my doc got on me for some cholesterol and belly fat. I was 5’4 and 125 pounds and a size 8, but I was carrying weight around my middle. I needed to exercise and be careful about my diet. You don’t get a free pass.

      • qualia says:

        “Some” fat, sure. But more than 33% for women 20-40 years old and 19% for men 20-40 is obese.

        • LadyTL says:

          Yes but there is no statistics on that since the BMI cannot be used to calculate body fat percentage and very few doctors look for it.

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      I don’t eat anywhere NEAR what my body calls for in daily calories, and I have a severe problem losing weight. I probably eat 100-1200 calories a day, exercise probably 2-3 times a week walking my dog (plus all the housework, taking care of 4 kids, yardwork, swimming ETC…) and I’d be friggin lucky if I could the standard 2 pounds a week. There are just certain parts of my body that I could starve myself and the fat reserves wouldn’t budge.

      I’m not crying whoa is me, but just pointing out that even with proper calorie restriction, eating healthier, exercising… it can take a toll on your psyche when you’ve worked so hard to see a 3 pd a MONTH weight loss. Most people just give up and concede they are genetically going to be big… which I do believe to an EXTENT. Some people don’t necessarily have to lose weight, but just do a bit more physically to build more muscle and eat less crap. I think my biggest downfall is diet pepsi, but I guess its better than cheesecake LOL.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        If you’re an average height and are overweight, 1,000-1,200 calories is not enough and could actually explain why you’re having trouble losing weight.

        Figure out what your basal metabolic rate is, then aim to shave 10-15% of that total off your daily caloric consumption. In other words, eat more (of the right foods).

  18. Tvhargon says:

    My doctor said I was overweight, yet I’m below the national average. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing.

    • NewsMuncher says:

      It depends on the effects the weight has on your health.
      How many “average” people have the lifespan and quality of life that they could have due to excess fat?
      From joint pain, to heart problems, to diabetes.
      It’s a matter of what you want out of life and what you can get.

  19. Groanan says:

    The chart looks accurate to me.
    I know people will rag on the corn syrup as being a large cause of our fatness (compared to other countries), but personally I think it is the evil dairy.
    Whenever I travel overseas for a few months I continue to gorge on sodas and chips, but my dairy almost vanishes, and I lose a lot of weight (I’m 5 foot 10 and usually 170-175 lbs, without diary I can go down to 155).
    My brother, who was a fat man, lost probably a third of his weight just by living in Japan for a year, where he has limited access to dairy.

    • crazydavythe1st says:

      I don’t think you can pin it solely on dairy. When you can get generic soda at $1 for a 2 liter, you see many poorer families forgo milk in favor of soda (of course this is based on what I see people with food stamps buy at the grocery store). True, they buy “cheese” but it is American cheese which only contains some portion of real cheese. You don’t really seem them buy any other dairy products, except maybe eggs.

    • Snaptastic says:

      Asian diets tend to be healthier all around compared to the American diet. It is more rice-based and they like lots more fruits and veggies while frowning upon deep-frying everything. I am also certain that they do not ingest as much sugar/HFCS as we do. I prefer oriental sweets because they are sweet, but not as overwhelmingly sweet as American snacks/candies. It sounds odd, but snacks from other regions seem to have tons more sugar added.

      Ever have a sweet red bean bun? I will eat those anytime over a sugar-filled pastry–I get my sweet fix and whatever good stuff comes in beans. X-D

    • johnva says:

      It’s also a more active lifestyle. Most people in other countries don’t drive everywhere exclusively like Americans tend to. It’s absurd that people get in their cars for errands that are 1 mile away in the U.S.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        People do that in Europe too, they just don’t admit it. I lived in England for years and people would drive to the local convenience store in our neighborhood which was less than a mile from any residence in that neighborhood.

        I think English people would drive a lot more places if only there was somewhere to park or if parking was free. In the city I lived in, parking was neither abundant nor was it free. So you kind of HAD to take the bus if you wanted to go into town to shop.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      I ate more dairy when I lived in France than I do now, but I was thin as a rail because I walked everywhere. Some of it was because of the more pedestrian-friendly layout of the area where I lived — and some of it was our constant transportation strikes!

      • Sarah of Get Cooking says:

        Same here. I think it had more to do with the quality of the dairy myself. I ate a lot more raw dairy products (cheeses), and products without antibiotics and hormones in France, and full fat dairy. The weight dripped off of me there, no matter how much I ate. It was a combination of walking and eating far less processed food, even if it was fatty.

    • smo0 says:

      I’ve heard the dairy argument before… honestly – we need to eat less of it because of the havoc it wreaks on your body….
      especially your face… but then again there’s the argument within dairy itself… what “dairy” are you consuming? is it processed, is it “fresh squeezed” (it’s a joke, laugh)… also what animal is it from? There are major differences between goat’s milk and cow’s milk.
      Part of this “what are you putting in your body” is a more complicated than even THIS chart can point out….

  20. dreamfish says:

    How many gallons of mountain dew a year?

  21. AstroPig7 says:

    The average American man is 5’9″? Since when?

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Since we started getting a lot more short Hispanic, Chinese, and Indian immigrants. No, really; there are enough of them that they are dragging down average heights for men and women. Nothing meant by that other than on average, simply put, they are shorter than black or white Americans. And second/third/fourth/etc. generation Latinos also tend to be taller than their newly-immigrated brethren. I think that has more to do with nutrition than anything else.

  22. khooray says:

    At least we’re getting our fruits, veggies, & dairy in the highest weights! I had gastric bypass surgery though, so I mainly eat rice, beans, and non-fried/breaded meat, mostly chicken.
    Chalk up a chicken farm in my name!

  23. INsano says:

    In Portland here, you can just switch the “milk” for “coffee/beer” sections and it would be more accurate.
    Rice, food staple of the world didn’t even make it on the graph. Wow.

  24. Pig_Farmington says:

    Corn syrup… lookin good

  25. JulesNoctambule says:

    Finally, a way in which I’m not average! I don’t eat meat, never drink milk, rarely drink soda and avoid corn syrup whenever possible.

  26. Dallas_shopper says:

    164 lbs at 5’4″ is a BMI of 28.1. 30 and above is obese. That is really sad.

  27. Sally says:

    I think we’re doing pretty good, except for a bit too much dairy. Veggies outweigh meat, even when you subtract corn.

  28. Kaniac says:

    Guys, can we please remake this graph? It’s killing me that the wedges aren’t to scale. This is more like a MIS-infographic. Boo.