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Americans Eat Too Much Meat, Not Enough Fruit, Says USDA Research

The average U.S. consumer eats significantly too much meat and grain, and not enough fruits or vegetables, according to data form the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Economic Research Service.

The USDA estimates food consumption by tracking how much food is produced and circulating through the U.S. food system ("food availability"), then adjusting that for losses such as spoilage, inedible parts of vegetables, and food that is cooked but not consumed. These values are then divided by the population to get an estimate of per-capita consumption.

According to these figures, the average U.S. resident consumes 30 percent too much grain, primarily in the form of bread. The data given do not specify whether this is mostly whole or refined grains; if refined, it is possible that people are both overconsuming grain in general and underconsuming whole grain in particular.

Meat consumption is 20 percent higher than recommended.

"And the dietary recommendations aren't exactly skimpy on meat," writes Tom Philpott on Grist.org.

In contrast, vegetable consumption is 20 percent too low, and fruit consumption is a shocking 60 percent too low.

Dairy consumption is estimated at 40 percent too low, but the USDA's dairy recommendations are controversial, as there are many other dietary sources of calcium, fat and protein.

The USDA attributes U.S. overconsumption of calories in part to "supersizing of food portions by food processors, eating places, and cookbook authors." Yet as Philpott notes, federal policies bear much of the responsibility for U.S. dietary habits.     
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