A cup of broccoli has 55 calories; a single chocolate-frosted doughnut has 240. So it’s no surprise that vegetables are nowhere to be found on the below list of Americans’ top sources of calories.
Coming in at number one? Grain-based desserts, which include “cake, cookies, pie, cobbler, sweet rolls, pastries, and doughnuts.”
The chart shows how many calories an average American child or adult gets from each food group every day. For example, pizza, on average, supplies about 136 calories per day to American children and adolescents. Here are Americans’ 25 top sources of calories:
The data comes from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which offers a detailed look at a representative sample of 5,000 Americans every year. (The numbers were crunched by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, and the chart was published as part of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.)
Breads, the analysis found, are a top source of calories, closely trailing bready desserts. Soda and sports drinks are another major calorie-hog in kids and adults, though adults get nearly as many calories from alcoholic beverages as they do from soda. Chicken — a category which includes everything from chicken salad and chicken nuggets to chicken stir fries and patties — is another big one. And we get more daily calories from candy than from eggs.
It’s important not to interpret this as a list of the most popular foods — you could eat a lot of celery every day and it probably still would not be a top source of your daily calories. But that’s part of what makes this analysis so interesting. For Americans, a huge portion of our calories are coming from processed junk.
By 2000, Americans were already eating an average of 24.5% more calories per day than their counterparts in 1970. The largest chunk of that increase (9.5 percentage points) came from grains, mostly refined. Only a tiny fraction — 1.5 percentage points — came from fruits and vegetables.
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