Which Food Do Americans Eat Most? Hint: It's Among the Worst Foods You Can Eat

Brad Lemley By Brad Lemley

I have cut back drastically on grains as a result of reading your persuasive messages,” reports William, referring to my many writings on the subject.

(So when should you eat grains? If you are new here, the answer is… only when you have an excellent reason to do so, such as when I had a chance to eat the best croissants in France. If followed, this would eliminate about 95 percent of grain consumption.)

Well done, William! And to recap, why is cutting back on grains so vital?

Well, as we lurch toward 2050, the fateful year when the Centers for Disease Control predicts up to one in three Americans will have diabetes, it’s sobering to check on what we are eating that’s leading us toward this disastrous future.

According to a report from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (I know, it’s old, but I doubt it has changed much), here are the top 10 sources of calories for adults in the U.S. diet — calories listed are per day:

  1. Grain-based desserts (cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pies, chips, cobblers and granola bars): 138 calories
  2. Yeast breads: 134 calories
  3. Chicken and chicken-mixed dishes: 123 calories
  4. Soda, energy drinks and sports drinks: 112 calories
  5. Alcoholic beverages: 106 calories
  6. Pizza: 86 calories
  7. Tortillas, burritos and tacos: 85 calories
  8. Pasta and pasta dishes: 78 calories
  9. Beef and beef-mixed dishes: 71 calories
  10. Dairy desserts: 58 calories

Why This List Is So Important

This is truly an astonishing list, because it explains as perhaps nothing else does why obesity and diabetes are spiraling out of control.

The fact that carbohydrates drive the obesity and diabetes epidemic is made extraordinarily clear by this list. Virtually everything on it is a carb-bomb, and it is shockingly low in dietary fat, especially healthful saturated fats.

I can find no equivalent list for, say, the 1960s and ’70s, but I’m old enough to remember that the “meat, potatoes and vegetables” ethic ruled the day.

And there is good evidence that beef “availability” (a rough measure for consumption) peaked in the late 1970s, dropping steadily since.1

That’s roughly when the obesity/diabetes epidemic began.

What About Chicken?

Still, critics point out that American’s consumption of animal flesh has declined only slightly overall over the last 50 years, due to our vastly increased appetite for chicken.

So surely, eating animals must be contributing to the obesity/diabetes epidemic, right?

On the surface, it seems so:

U.S. per capita availability of beef, pork, and chicken, 1909-2013

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Food Availability Data

However, unlike beef, it’s estimated that at least 50 percent of chicken eaten in the U.S. restaurants is batter-coated and deep-fried, usually in soybean oil. I can’t find comparable figures for home consumption, but it’s a safe bet that a good deal of that is fried as well.

This cooking method negates chicken’s potential low-carb, anti-inflammatory status. Cornmeal or wheat batters and heated, oxidized soybean oil are profoundly fat-forming.

Fried chicken is not a healthy food. And frankly, I am not a huge fan of un-battered, un-fried chicken as well. It is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, the kind most likely to form inflammatory oxidants upon cooking. We have very little evolutionary history with eating birds, especially obese ones like the modern chicken. Beef is better.

Bottom Line

Consider the low-hanging fruit. Begin your journey to weight loss and stable blood sugar by, at the very least, eliminating all of the foods in the 1 and 2 positions on the list.

And while you are at it, the fried chicken portion of No. 3. 

It’s as simple as that. Just don’t eat them anymore.

As William so graciously wrote, “Overall, I feel very good about the changes I have made as a result of reading your material. Thank you for your good work.”

I sincerely thank you, William, for your kind words, and I wish robust health and “good feelings” to you and all of my extraordinary readers!


Brad Lemley

Brad Lemley


1 Daniel CR, Cross AJ, Koebnick C, Sinha R. Trends in meat consumption in the USA. Public Health Nutr. 2011

About Brad Lemley

I am a science journalist who has written for the Washington Post, Discover Magazine and dozens of other national publications. I've written or co-written 10 books, most on health and fitness. I am a passionate advocate for self-directed, nature-based health care, and believe strongly that robust health is within reach of anyone who possesses the right information.