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Americans Consuming More Saturated Fat and Sodium then in the 1970’s

A recent study compared food consumption patterns in the US during 1977-78 with patterns during 2005-2008 and found that Americans have increased the number of meals consumed outside the home. Calories consumed away from home rose from 17.7% to 31.6%.

Due to this increase, Americans are consuming more saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol, and consuming less dietary fiber, due to the amounts of each found in food prepared outside the home. Foods prepared outside the home include fast food, restaurant food and school food.

In 2008, the percentage of calories from saturated fats was 13.5% in fast-food compared to 10.7% in homemade food. As a result, while the total percentage of calories from fat being consumed has decreased from 39.7% to 33.4%, consumption of unhealthy saturated fat has increased.

Sodium content was also significantly higher in restaurant food and fast-food in 2008 than in food made at home. The specific values were 2,151 mg and 1,864 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories, respectively, compared to 1,369 mg per 1,000 calories.

Additionally, foods consumed outside the home had lower dietary fiber than foods made at home. 6.8 g per 1,000 calories compared to7.7 g per 1,000 calories.

One positive health trend the researchers did find was that calcium consumption has risen since the 1970s. Mean daily calcium intake in 2005-2008 was 919 mg, up from 743 mg in 1977-78. The majority of this increase comes from foods consumed at home.

The study was conducted by researchers from USDA's Economic Research Service and published in December 2012 in the Economic Information Bulletin of the USDA's Economic Research Service.

The trend towards consuming more meals outside of the home is having an impact on the nutritional quality of the American diet. Poor diets contribute to obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoarthritis. If you want to cut the amount of saturated fat and sodium in your diet, try to prepare as many of your meals at home, using healthy ingredients.

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