Dietary Report Card 2013
Recent reports have both good and bad news about our dietary report card. A recent report in the journal Pediatrics conveyed that teenagers are exercising more, eating less sugar, and eating more fruits and vegetables! Woo Hoo! Kudos to parents who have been hounding their teens to get off the couch, turn off the Xbox, and move their bodies in space. And Moms and Dads have probably been reducing the availability of sugary snacks on the home front, while schools have been getting rid of high calorie drinks and treats.
There is still room for improvement. Younger children have the highest level of physical activity and fruit and veggie consumption. As they get older, kids get more sedentary and eat more garbage--and no surprise, their body mass creeps up.
The study analyzed data from tens of thousands of schoolchildren, in grades 6 through 10, and has been conducted every 4 years since 2001. Sadly, childhood obesity has doubled since 1980. It rose between 2001 and 2006, and has plateaued in 2010 at 13 percent. It’s still too high, but I think we have all been getting the message and responding. I’m encouraged.
But we still have a ways to go. The yearly “Dietary Report Card” from the Center for Science in the Public Interest was more disappointing. Overall, the consumption of fruits and vegetables have barely budged upward, our love of cheese hasn’t declined, and we are still eating 450 more calories a day than we did in 1970. And we don’t need these extra calories to fuel our declining daily activity level!
According to the Center, we get a D+ in sugar consumption. In 1999 we hit a high of 89 pounds of sugar per person per year! OMG! We are down to a mere 78 pounds—but it’s just too much. A big source of these pounds of the white stuff comes from soda and sugary drinks.
On the plus side, we got a B in the consumption of meat, poultry and seafood. Eating beef has been on the decline. This may ultimately reduce the rate of heart disease and colon cancer. The average American eats only about 16 pounds of seafood a year, and most of that comes from only 10 different species. It’s good to remember the fast frozen fish is tasty, a good source of protein, and less expensive than fresh fish.
The Center gave us a C in eating grains. All together, we eat 109 pounds of flour per year in breads, bagels, cereals, pizza, and the rest. Most of this is refined flour. The nutritionists at The Center want us to eat more whole grains and less refined ones. But overall they think we ought to eat less of this food group all together. We get a C- in the dairy department. Since 1970, we have crept up from 8 lbs. of cheese per year to 23 pounds per person! On the bright side, the consumption of full fat ice cream is dipping and we are eating more low fat yogurt. Good job!
Many cities are helping consumers by letting us know the caloric and fat content of store bought foods. When I drop in at my local coffee shop and gaze at a muffin with 450 calories I think twice about buying it. A typical supersized bagel is 500 calories! A cinnabon at the mall is a whopping 825 calories! Considering the average adult should eat about 2000 calories a day, a muffin or a bagel takes a big bite out of the total.
Restaurant supersized portions haven’t helped us get better grades. The average restaurant portion is double the size or weight of what we need. Next time you go out for breakfast, share one order with your friend. One-half of a three-egg omlette, half an order of potatoes, and half an order of toast will power you through the morning! You won’t miss the extra calories.
And remember, just because something is good for you, quantity does matter. Take popcorn—healthy, right? A large movie theatre popcorn is 664 calories with 27 grams of saturated fat! Help!
Tell us about changes you have made at home or a work that is helping improve your dietary report card!