How Much Food Does the Average American Eat in a Year?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American eats nearly 2,700 calories a day. With the exception of athletes and very active individuals, this caloric intake exceeds expert recommendations by several hundred calories. Over time, all those extra calories add up - and it’s no wonder that 2/3 of Americans are overweight.

In the journey to eating smarter, we need to look at where we’re at today. We need to assess the situation before decided which areas of our diet are most ripe for improvement. To that end, and while these numbers will vary greatly from individual to individual, I think today’s infographic is a great place to start.

(Scroll down for additional commentary)

For me, there are a few important takeaways.

At first glance, it can seem encouraging that we consume 415 pounds in vegetables annually (which translates to more than 20% of our overall food intake by weight). That is, until you realize that corn and potatoes account for 173 pounds of that. Though there’s nothing wrong with corn and potatoes, let’s make more space for other veggies in our diets.

An obvious area for improvement is the 110 lbs of red meat we consume. In a frequently cited study, Harvard researchers found that 9% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths would be prevented if we lowered red meat consumption to 1.5 ounces (or less) per day. That would be just over 34 pounds annually. In other words, replacing 2 out of 3 beef dishes with a leaner meat - or vegetables - would be a wise move for the average American.

We also eat a lot of non-cheese dairy products. In other words, we a great opportunity to substitute with dairy alternatives that are less calorie-dense, like almond milk.

Speaking of calorie dense foods, we’d all be well served by reducing the 141 pounds of caloric sweeteners consumed annually. In part, this is fueled by the 53 gallons of soda we drink annually. And the 24 pounds of ice cream. Replacing just a few glasses of soda and other high-sugar products per week would go a long way to a healthier lifestyle.

In the comments below, let me know how your personal eating habits differ from the average American. And what areas for improvement are there in your diet?


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  1. Just a note:

    I’m not suggesting that the overall message isn’t right, but the information in the infographic is both out of date and suspect.

    Take a look at the sources:
    I skipped checking the FDA homepage for obvious reasons.
    The next one is a USDA profile from 10-11 years ago.
    The next one is a CDC study that includes average weights from 9-6 six years ago, and published 4 years ago.
    The next one is an article about how Americans were eating fewer fries — two years ago.
    And then the next one was the homepage of a pizzeria in Michigan… which is the point at which I stopped bothering to check.

    I think this one might need a little bit of a disclaimer.

  2. I have done very well keeping sugar and table salt out of my diet, with the exception of Starbucks.

  3. Wow, for once I’m actually above average when it comes to healthy eating (according to the above anyway). I don’t eat any meat, and I don’t consume (well, more or less) any non-cheese dairy products. And I suspect I eat more veggies that the average as well, though I don’t know for sure. I wonder what the ‘ideal’ food consumption graphic would look like.

  4. r dennis leveridge says:

    Never drink soda; opt for the salad instead of fries with restaurant meals which I rarely eat; hardly eat red meat…usually chicken and not much of that; about 8 eggs a week; snack on almonds, cashews and high cacao (dark) chocolate; hardly drink tea or coffee….mostly juice (which I’m starting to cut down on); whole grain breads and cereals; eat fish once in a while; veggies and fruit. I need to drink more water and get more exercise.

  5. christopher says:

    im not average consumer.everyday it seems im at 2000 calories or less.ive eliminated sodium-soda-ice cream-pizza-bread-fries-corn syrup.consumption of fish far exceeds-poultry-beef-pork.——2700 calories for an average.if statistics are true for 2012-that way too much.2000 is recommended..2700 calories per day may indicate overeating-but if combined with daily exercise-thats got to be lots of exercise.2/3 americans overweight?thats true.

  6. I wonder if these numbers are calculated by what people buy instead of actually eating. Because food thrown out is 33 million tons annually in the U.S. ( And if it’s like my family’s house, most of it comes out of the fruits and veggie section.

  7. Sandie says:

    If Americans are eating that many vegetables, how come we have an obesity epidemic in America? That seems kind of odd that they are supposedly consuming that many fruits and veggies but are still way overweight and incredibly unhealthy.