The latest national surveys on weight shows more than 68 percent of all Americans are considered overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means they have a body mass index greater than 25. Mine is 33 and few have said I look fat so who really knows.
To truly understand what’s wrong with the American diet, you have to know how we are fed. Over the last twenty years, the American diet has changed dramatically both in terms of the quantity and quality of our food intake.
In 1970, Americans took in an average of 2,160 calories per day. Today, it has skyrocketed to 2,673 daily. As shown in the graph below, we are now eating 20-25 percent more calories than we did in 1970!
How did this happen? Both plate sizes and portion sizes expanded with the introduction of processed, shelf-ready food, food became cheaper and easier to get than it was in the 1970s. If you combine this with a society that is always looking to get a bang for their buck, you end up with the most food for the least amount of money.
Whether you choose to get “supersized” at McDonalds, or have the “all you can eat pasta” at Olive Garden, what value-based pricing saves you in cash today may get you fat tomorrow. The Washington Post reports that many of the meals we are eating out at restaurants contain as many calories as we need in an entire day.
Lets face the facts. There are two possible ways to get fat: You can eat too many calorie-dense foods, or you can eat too much food or beverages in general. Most Americans do both.
The problem is that Americans don’t know how to arrange a plate of food – they just put too much food on the plate. Or making too much food in the first place is also an American problem. Maybe we take comfort in eating or we are just victims of marketing, either way we eat way more than Europeans. And guess what – they weigh less.
Restaurants are worse. A recent study from Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus shows that 92 percent of restaurants serve meals exceeding recommended calorie requirements for a single serving. The researchers suggest offering consumers smaller portions at lower prices, but we know that’s not going to happen.
Here are some tips to eat less when eating out:
- Ask for a to-go box and take half of your meal home.
- Try to order protein, such as meat or fish, or plant-based food such as tofu, over carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and potatoes.
- When eating out, ask to hold the starch (pasta, potatoes, rice) and double up on the veggies.
- When serving food at home, use smaller plates for the main course, and larger ones for the salad.
- When eating at home, try to buy fresh, local produce in season. Stay away from processed foods as much as possible.
- When plating your food, make half of the plate veggies and salad. The other half should be split into 2/3 protein, and 1/3 carbs. The starchy carb items should be the smallest part of your plate.
- Have your family get up and serve themselves. Do not leave the food on the table, or everyone will eat more.
- When lured by more food for less money, look to see if they are just adding more starch (pasta, French fries or rice). If this is the case, don’t bite!
- Limit eating out to no more than once per week, and try to cook more healthy meals at home.
- When eating, just eat! Refrain from watching TV, using electronics or reading a magazine or book.