See What People Around The World Eat In A Typical Day


Photo: Peter Menzel/What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets

Photographer Peter Menzel and his wife, writer Faith D’Aluisio, embarked on a journey around the world to see what different people eat in a typical day.

Click here to see some diets >
“Our goal was to make people more aware of their own diets, ” says Menzel. “We saw America was getting bigger and bigger. We thought it would be easier for Americans to understand nutrition if we saw what people were consuming around the planet.”

Their book, What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets, profiles people ranging from a camel broker in Egypt to a Japanese sumo wrestler to a “snacker mum” in Great Britain. The profiles are ranked from lowest to highest caloric intake.

“More people should emulate the diet of Japan,” says Menzel. “They have a stressful kind of life similar to the United States, but have much better numbers for longevity and health. They also spend less on food. Part of the reason is because they consume more rice, soy and vegetables. The Japanese have a phrase — hara hachi bu, which means ‘stop eating when you’re 80 per cent full.'” 

This factory seamstress in Bangladesh eats 1,800 calories on a typical day

Name: Ruma Akhter
Age: 20
Height: 5'
Weight: 86 pounds

Akhter is one of over 6,000 employees at the Ananta Apparels company in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

While nearly half of Bangladesh's population is employed in agriculture, in recent years the economic engine of Bangladesh has been its garment industry, and the country is now the world's fourth largest clothing exporter, ahead of India and the United States. Dependent on exports and fearing international sanctions, Bangladesh's garment industry has implemented rules outlawing child labour and setting standards for humane working conditions.

What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets

This widowed citrus grower in Ganjiagou Village, China eats 1,900 calories on a typical day

Name: Lan Guihua
Age: 68
Height: 5'3'
Weight: 121 pounds

Her farmhouse is tucked into a bamboo-forested hillside beneath her husband's grave, and the courtyard opens onto a view of citrus groves and vegetable fields. Chickens and dogs roam freely in the packed-earth courtyard, and firewood and brush for her kitchen wok are stacked under the eaves.

Although homegrown vegetables and rice are her staples, chicken feathers and a bowl that held scalding water for easier feather plucking are clues to the meat course of a special meal for visitors. In this region, each rural family is its own little food factory and benefits from thousands of years of agricultural knowledge passed down from generation to generation.

What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets

This college student in Shanghai, China eats 2,600 calories on a typical day

Name: Chen Zhen
Age: 20
Height: 5' 5'
Weight: 106 pounds

Although she doesn't care for noodles or rice, a special rice roll is her favourite snack: black glutinous rice wrapped around youtiao (fried bread), pickled vegetables, mustard greens, and floss-like threads of dried pork.

Zhen and her friends eat at KFC about three times a week, something they couldn't afford without the company's coupons. Meanwhile, her father and grandparents, who live in a tiny apartment in northeast Shanghai, go without meat during the week so they can afford to share a special meal with Zhen on her weekend visits.

What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets

A qat merchant in Yemen eats 3,300 calories on a typical day

Name: Ahmed Ahmed Swaid
Age: 50
Height: 5' 7'
Weight: 148 pounds

Ahmed, who wears a jambiya dagger, as many Yemeni men do, has been a qat dealer in the old city souk for eight years. Although qat chewing isn't as severe a health hazard as smoking tobacco, it has drastic social, economic, and environmental consequences. When chewed, the leaves release a mild stimulant related to amphetamines. Qat is chewed several times a week by a large percentage of the population: 90 per cent of Yemen's men and 25 per cent of its women. Because growing qat is 10 to 20 times more profitable than other crops, scarce groundwater is being depleted to irrigate it, to the detriment of food crops and agricultural exports.

What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets

An engineering company executive and martial arts instructor in Cairo, Egypt eats 4,000 calories on a typical day

Name: George Bahna
Age: 29
Height: 5'11'
Weight: 165 pounds

George eats four to five times a day but doesn't worry about gaining weight because he's active; working out in a special room in his flat and at the private Gezira Sporting Club near his apartment.

The Nile River bisects the cacophonous metropolis of Cairo, home to 17 million people, many of them very poor. Although Egypt's stock market and gross domestic product have risen steadily for the past four years, the standard of living for the average Egyptian has not. The government continues to provide food subsidies for those in need, creating a sizable budget deficit.

What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets

A long-distance truck driver and ex-biker from Mississippi, USA eats 5,400 calories on a typical day

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