The Foods That Made America Fat

By Jim F

In 1961 Americans consumed 2883 calories per person. By 2000 this had increased to 3817. Combine this with a decrease in physical activity and it’s a no-brainer; in the space of 40 years people got fatter. Not only that – they also got sicker.

What foods made up this 935 calorie increase and what effect might those foods have had on overall health?

Are we eating a lot more animal-based protein? Red meat? Or is it the increase of saturated fats that have made us sicker?

The answers to these questions present a stunning contrast to traditional dietary dogma.Here’s the base statistics.

  1961 2000
Total Calories per Day 2882.5 3816.71
Calories from Protein 13.2% 12%
Calories from Fat 34.4% 36.7%
Calories from Carbohydrate 48.7% 47.3%
Calories from Alcohol 3.7% 4%

Consumption of animal proteins went from 8.7% of daily calories to 7.6% – here are some details:

Calories per Day from 1961 2000
Butter 65 40
Eggs 67 55
Red Meat 140 123
Poultry 64 186

More poultry but less red meat, butter, and eggs. Pork consumption is about the same. So where did all the extra calories come from?

Added sugars, vegetable oils, and cereal grains.

Calories per Day from 1961 2000
Added Sugars 515.75 665.82
Vegetable Oils 267.5 634.93
Cereal Grains 627.32 869.05

We’ve been told to; eat less eggs, eat more margarine – avoid butter, eat less saturated fat, eat less red meat, eat more grains, use more vegetable oils.

The above statistics would indicate – that to some degree – this advice has been taken to heart.

Strange how more of us are obese than ever before and how diabetes and heart disease rates continue to climb.

Surely after 40 years we should be seeing some positive evidence?

Many thanks to R. Wilshire for her indepth research into FAO food lists. You can see a more detailed analysis on her site at Weight of the Evidence.



    It’s not how much we eat, It’s what we eat is and how much of that we burn off. One could eat 4000 calories with a 60/40 protein/carb blend and still live a healthy lifestyle if they burn at least 3850 of those calories off by bedtime.

  2. Jeff

    I think the main reason we are getting bigger is that we are eating too many carbohydrates. Based on the figures above, Americans are getting 47% of their calories from carbs. With an average intake of 3,800 calories, this is equal to about 445 grams of carbs a day. This is easily 2 to 3 times more carbs than the average sedentary American needs. I have been shifting what I eat to be heavier in fat and protein and lighter in carbs and I have lost 13 pounds in 6 weeks without exercise. I am not talking about a low carb diet, I am talking about eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, sandwiches and hamburgers with the bun, and other really good foods.

  3. Truth

    @Dan Sorry, but if your brother’s wife from Latin America is petite and went from being slim to 100 pounds heavier, don’t blame it on America or fast food. There’s something gravely emotional or psychological haunting her.

  4. Amanda

    Obviously, Liz didn’t mean it to be racist. I am Mexican and I do not appreciate the OP’s racist comment about Mexicans “making America fat.” First of all, it is baseless, factless and incompetently drawn from some likely flawed data. Mexicans have been in this country a lot longer. We had Texas and California well before Americans even thought about attaining those lands. Now, sure there has been a great influx of new Mexicans recently, but many have already been here well before 1963. So clearly, by the sheer clarity of history, Mexicans are not to blame. I am sorry you found Liz’s discerning realization of the OP’s incompetency offensive and “racist.”

  5. r

    the reason the unhealthy, processed foods are generally cheaper is because all that “junk” they put in it is actually junk, and thus extremely cheap to produce. Organic produce is much more expensive to farm than the GM stuff the large industrial operations crank out. Processed foods are extremely expensive for what you get though, they only seem cheaper / easier (for example boxed cereals compared to a bag of oatmeal, the cereal is not only far more expensive by weight but most likely also has virtually no nutritional value compared to the oatmeal)

  6. CLH

    Obviously this person is suffering from the harmful side effects of commercially processed food…

  7. Melissa Downes

    @Phil Please do not say WE are pigs. There are plenty of American’s like myself that eat very well-balanced diets and exercise frequently. The fact is that our country is full of people in poverty that can’t think they can’t afford to eat healthy foods, but instead of choosing alternatives they choose McDonalds. Maybe there should be free seminars that teach less fortunate people how to spend their money wisely so their children do not die of diabetes/obesity.

  8. Kitty

    We all have excuses.

    I have mine too. I manage my household, as many wives do. The cooking, the cleaning, the grocery shopping, the day to day administrative tasks. I also work full time.

    So I get done with work and day care/school pick ups, and I have 30-40 minutes to get dinner on the table. After dinner it’s dishes, cleaning, homework help, baths, bedtimes… and when all that is done at about 8:30/9:00 – I’m supposed to be eager to go run for a few miles? Go to the gym? Jump on my bike and go for a ride in the dark?

    We have a lot of issues in this country that contribute. Less meals cooked at home? Agreed. Too many additives/empty calories in processed foods? Agreed. Too many processed foods even available? Agreed. Cost issues? Agreed. Overbooked and overscheduled? Certainly. Agreed.

    I wish we’d start with finding a way to make everyone able to move more as an organic part of their day. Walking paths, reasons to get up and move at work, etc. Exercise is a LOT harder when you need to squeeze all of it in during your “off time”.

  9. lincoln

    I don’t really think so Paul. I live in Iowa where most of the people live in small towns or on the farm so you’d think that everybody would be getting a lot of exercise doing farm work or walking around town. This isn’t the case there is tons of fat and obese people. I’ve also went to both coasts and don’t see much change. America as whole just appears to a bunch of lard asses with some “normal” people squished between their massive rolls.

    • heathertwist

      I agree. I’ve heard SO MANY theories, but none of them work, when I look at real people. I know couch potatoes that are thin, and farmers that are fat. The think Chinese and Japanese not necessarily got more exercise than the average American either. When I was a kid, most kids and parents were thin, but NO ONE did “exercise” and Betty Crocker desserts were big.

      I’ve been experimenting with “what works” and I think it has to do with food choices, “cuisine”. Methionine, especially, is a diet regulator, and there is less of it in the American diet than in most. Regulating methionine determines the size of poultry and growth rates, and I expect it does in humans too. It’s not a real obvious factor though, unless you stop to think about it.

  10. Scott


    Get off your computer…
    Get off your butt…

    Go for a walk!

  11. Dan

    My brother met his wife in Latin America. She is petite and was a healthy weight when they met, but after 10 years of living in the US, she has swollen up like a balloon. Fast food and big portions have caused her to gain at least 100 pounds. I feel sorry for her because she used to look nice.

  12. big wezzy

    all u is wrong and can eat a dick u homo lame ass niggas