Are Americans Eating Healthier Than They Were 40 Years Ago?

Our collective eating habits over the decades, visualized

By Evan Bleier

 
Are Americans Eating Healthier Than They Were 40 Years Ago?
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17 May 2016

What do George W. Bush, the Boston Red Sox and chicken farmers have in common?

They all had historic victories in 2004.

While you probably have some memory of the former two, poultry's dominance of the protein trade in ‘04 might have flown under your radar. That was the first year Americans began consuming more chicken than beef (2.12 ounces per day, nudging out beef by .01 ounces).

That tasty nugget comes courtesy of a new Flowing Data visualization that was cooked up using information from the United States Department of Agriculture about food consumption from 1971 to 2013.

Besides chicken — which was actually being consumed less than pork in ‘71 — becoming the top protein of choice, here are some other foods that have changed in popularity over the last 40-some-odd years.


Image via Flowing Data 

Dark Green State
An afterthought in the early ‘70s (.02 cups consumed per days), veggies like kale and spinach leapfrogged tomatoes, legumes and lettuce to take the second spot on the vegetable list by 2013, slotting in behind only the wire-to-wire leader, the potato.

Got Milk?
In 1971, whole milk, 2% milk and ice cream had three of the top four dairy spots, with American cheese taking home the remaining position. Fast forward 42 years and American and Italian cheese were first and second, with 2% and whole milk finishing third and fourth, respectively. Sadly, ice cream fell all the way to the cellar, with just .05 cups consumed per day.

The Big Movers
People must like daiquiris and guacamole, because the consumption of strawberries and avocados has risen steadily over the past four decades. Watermelons and grapes have also increased in popularity, while oranges have fallen off in big way. Surprisingly, there was no spike in bananas consumed in 2006, when Gwen Stefani released “Hollaback Girl.”

No Lard and Fats Rules
Random fats and lard were at the bottom of the list in 1917 (2.0 and 1.6 grams consumed per day), and at the bottom of the list they remained in 2013 — with drastically reduced consumption numbers to boot.

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