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Americans Mostly Eat Food of Poor Nutritional Quality – Except At School, Research Claims

Nutritional Quality

Hopping into a fast-food restaurant or stopping by the drive-thru to get a quick meal tends to be more commonly practiced than some people would like to admit. In this blog, we are discussing that most of the eat poor nutritional quality food.

This tradition and the need to buy ready-to-cook food from grocery stores and eat out are drastically affecting the nutrition quality of the diet consumed by Americans.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provided the Food Institute some data for analysis. According to the results achieved, it was found that the millennials alone are spending 45 percent of their food budget on take-outs or eating out.

In 1977, an average American family spent less than 38 percent of their total food budget on eating out. Now, they are spending almost 50 percent of their food budget on take-outs and restaurant food.

Whether it is buying ready-to-cook food from grocery stores or eating take-out or restaurant food, for the most part, Americans of all age groups are eating poor nutritional quality food. However, it is comparatively better at schools. This conclusion was derived from the latest dietary trends study. It also revealed worsening and persistent disparities in the food quality from grocery stores, restaurants, and other food sources, except for schools, income, ethnicity, and race.

The Study

This study was published in JAMA Network Open. It analyzed the meals consumed by Americans in the past 16 years. Their beverages and snacks were also considered. The study is a branch of a series that investigates trends and patterns in diet quality among American children and adults. Researchers of Friedman School lead the series.

Their team utilized data from NHANES. In addition, they used HEI-2015 (Healthy Eating Index) and AHA (American Health Association) diet scores to assess the nutritional quality. They both provided similar results.

The most recent national data available is from the year 2018. According to it,

  • Restaurants provided the lowest nutritional quality food. For example, they provided 80 percent of children’s meals and 65 percent of adult meals of low quality.
  • The second was the entertainment spots and truck food. They provided 52 percent of children’s meals and 44 percent of adult meals of low quality.
  • Then were the work sites. They provided 51 percent of adult meals that were of low quality.
  • The fourth was the grocery stores, which were better than others. They provided 45 percent of children’s meals and 33 percent of adult meals of low quality.
  • Schools provided the least poor nutritional quality food. For example, they provided 24 percent of children’s meals that were of low quality.

Findings

The senior author of this study and the dean of the Friedman School, Dariush Mozaffarian, stated that schools are the only place that provides healthy meals to Americans. These results are particularly on time, considering the widespread school closures from COVID-19 in America over the recent year, along with current efforts to reopen schools fully and safely. These findings indicate substantial nutritional harm to millions of children who were not receiving consistent meals at schools and depended on other sources. These damages also affect low-income Latinx and Black children disproportionately.

After analyzing the diets of almost 21,000 children and 40,000 adults, it was found by the research team that in the years between 2003 and 2018, the nutritional quality of food consumed at schools improved significantly. It all mostly happened after the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act that was passed in the year 2010. This act mandated a lot stronger early child-care and school nutrition standards. The results represented foods consumed in reality from different American sources rather than what is available for purchasing, theoretically.

In America, Children between the years 2003 and 2018:

  • The poor nutritional quality food proportion consumed from restaurants declined from 85 percent to 80 percent,
  • Furthermore, the poor nutritional quality food proportion consumed from grocery stores declined from 53 percent to 45 percent,
  • The poor nutritional quality food proportion consumed from schools declined from 57 percent to 24 percent,
  • Noticeable disparities were observed in improvements in grocery store foods, with more improvements in Whites than Hispanics or Blacks, and in children in households with more family income or with household heads having greater educational attainment compared to lower education or income.
  • Comparably, the changes in food consumed at schools were reasonable by household income, education, and ethnicity/race.

Results

Mozaffarian stated that their findings draw attention to the fact most meals, drinks, and snacks consumed in America have poor nutritional quality and significant differences by where the meal is obtained. He also said that the improvement in the food provided in schools across the population subgroups was especially equitable, large, and striking. It is surely connected to the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act that was passed in the year 2010. It was a powerful lesson that demonstrated how a federal policy could modify and improve equity and nutrition for a large population of America. These results are in time with the latest focus of Congress and the presidential administration on nutrition security.

Child Nutrition

Junxiu Liu, the first author of the study, stated that the nutritional quality of the food provided in schools was improved by having the children eat more of what is healthy for them, such as beans, greens, total fruits, and whole grains, and less of what is unhealthy, such as foods with added sugar, refined grains, and sugary drinks. These were some of the specific goals set by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Liu and Mozaffarian pointed out that despite these improvements, for an average, child school meals only account for 9 percent of the total calories for a whole year. This highlights the importance of refining the nutritional quality of meals and food choices from the remaining sources.

The grocery store department accounts for almost 67 percent of calories for adults and 65 percent for children. Second to it is restaurants at 22 percent of calories for adults and 19 percent of calories for children. Finally, entertainment venues, food trucks, and gifts from others represent 9 percent of calories for adults and 8 percent of calories for children.

Some more findings from the years between 2003 and 2018 for American adults include:

  • The poor nutritional quality food proportion consumed from restaurants stayed the same at 65 percent,
  • Moreover, the poor nutritional quality food proportion consumed from workplaces declined from 56 percent to 51 percent,
  • The poor nutritional quality food proportion consumed from grocery stores declined from 40 percent to 33 percent.

How Poor Nutritional Diet Affects Your Health

Diet and nutrition influence how a person acts, thinks, looks, and feels. An unhealthy diet can result in less alertness, increased muscle response time, slower problem-solving ability, and lower core strength. It harms a person’s health and can cause serious problems, such as,

Obesity

It was found in a survey conducted in 2003 by the National Center of Health Statistics that almost 65.2 percent of adults are either overweight or obese in America because of poor nutrition. Overweight and obese increases the risk of other health problems.

Hypertension

One of the possible outcomes of poor nutrition is hypertension. It is often named the silent killer. This is because it is usually not detected and treated at the initial level, thus silently causes damage to the body. It is mostly caused by too much intake of refined foods, caffeine, dairy products, sugar, salt, fried food, and junk food, among other factors.

High Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Increased cholesterol level is considered the primary contributor to various heart diseases. According to the National Institutes of Health reports, each year in America, around 500,000 people die from heart disease caused by consuming a diet high in fat. There are large quantities of saturated fats in high cholesterol foods. Its common examples are beef, butter, cheese, eggs, and ice creams. Therefore, it is better to avoid processed and high-fat foods and choose lean protein forms such as seafood, fish, turkey, and chicken.

Diabetes

There are different forms of diabetes. Some of them can be caused by excessive fat and a sugar-laden diet, which leads to weight gain. In a report from the National Institutes of Health, it was stated that almost 8 percent of Americans are diabetic.

Stroke

Strokes damage and impair the functioning of the brain, which can even sometimes cause death. Its risk is increased by eating a diet that contains high levels of cholesterol, salts, and fats. In a stroke, a clot breaks away from the buildup plaque in the blood vessels. It then travels to the brain and causes blockage.

Gout

Increased uric acid levels cause crystals to develop in joints. It can be caused by having a diet that contains high amounts of cholesterol and fats. Foods that can raise uric acid levels in the blood and eventually cause gout are cheese, butter, pork, red meat, scallops, oysters, mussels, and sardines.

Bottom Line

To conclude, the COVID-19 pandemic has relatively changed the system of getting food. Before the pandemic, grocery stores were the major source, and that has accelerated, adding online to it. Cafes and restaurants that survived the lockdown and the pandemic have started to reopen now. This is the best time to analyze the food choices and sources as a nation and find ways to provide better nutrition. It is time to remove unhealthy food choices and replace them with healthy ones as much as possible.

Written by HealthRadar360

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