90% Of US Has a Poor Diet, and 25% Don’t Exercise, Study Finds

The United States has a bad reputation when it comes to healthy diets. 

That’s because at least a third of Americans enjoy fast food on any given day. 

In fact, popular American eating habits have long been a cause for concern. 

That’s because one-third of children 2 to 19 years old and two-thirds of U.S. adults are obese or overweight. 

Most families have embraced pre-packaged, commercialized products over fresh food. This could be because it is easier to eat on the go, and you can fit it into a busy schedule.

And when the pandemic rolled in, countless people became inactive. Across all territories and states, over 15% of adults preferred a sedentary lifestyle. These estimates could range anywhere from 17.3% to 47.7%. 

Now, when you pair that with poor eating habits, it is easy to see how big of an impact these two factors can have on overall health. 

This includes weight management, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Many people miss out on the sheer benefits of a good diet and physical activity. 

Recent data suggests that just 10% of American adults meet the veggie requirements. And a staggering 25% of people weren’t doing any physical activity outside of work-related activities. 

Here is a closer look at the typical American diet and its impact on overall health. 

What Is the Average American Diet?

What is the standard American diet? The first thing that comes to mind when people think of a standard American diet is fast food, burgers, and fries. And this isn’t exactly too farfetched. 

The United States is the biggest fast-food consumer on the globe. A 2021 survey showed that around 71.8% of participants chose these consumables out of convenience. While 37.6% chose it because it tasted delicious. 

Experts estimate that the average American consumes roughly 2,500 to 3,600 calories a day. Many obese or overweight individuals can eat a lot more than that. The typical recommended calorie intake a day is 2,500 for men and 2,000 for women. 

Does the Average American Have a Healthy Diet?

For the average American adult eating 2,100 calories a day, 16% of those calories would come from protein. In this standard American diet, 36% comes from fat, 47% from carbs, and 22% from added sugars. Of course, not every diet in America is the same. 

But, the classic diet of American families may incorporate a lot of processed and ultra-processed products. Based on a study, ultra-processed foods make up almost 90% of added sugars intake and 60% of calories in the United States. 

So, what is the reason behind this unhealthy trend? When healthier and nutritious consumables are a lot pricier than their unhealthy counterparts, it’s normal for a major chunk of the population to go for products they can afford. This can affect people’s eating habits in America.

The popularity of fast food remains high because these options are tailored toward a tight budget. Meaning people don’t have to spend too much to get fed. 

Compared to salads and fresh produce, pizza, fries, and burgers are a lot cheaper and easier to come by. So, the typical diet in the United States may often be loaded with added sugar, extra calories, and trans fat. 

According to recent stats, healthier, perishable consumables are almost twice as expensive as packaged unhealthy goodies. The gap between healthy food in America and not-so-healthy options is so big that it’s normal for people to feel drawn to the cheaper alternatives. 

The skyrocketing food costs prevent 65% of Americans from eating healthy American food. While people may want to work on their overall health, the price remains a serious barrier. That’s why almost two-thirds of the population is occasionally or frequently deterred from picking healthier food choices. 

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Study Finds 90% Of US Has a Poor Diet, and 25% Don’t Exercise 

Recent dietary data evaluated about 300,000 American participants before the coronavirus hit the country. Participants were asked to talk more about their eating habits so experts could compare them to the recommendations listed in the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

Overall, the advisory committee suggests adults consume 2 to 4 cups of veggies and about 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruits daily. Participants stated they ate fruits a median of only once a day. At the same time, they ate veggies a median of 1.6 a day. 

That means just a fraction (10%) of adults consumed enough vegetables based on the recommended guidelines. There were also some differences based on the location and other factors. For instance, women were more eager to meet the veggie and fruit recommendations than men. 

Also, participants over 51 years old were keener on incorporating veggies in their diet than younger adults. With that being said, individuals with a higher income also were more likely to eat the necessary number of veggies. 

The covid pandemic’s impact

According to the CDC, the covid pandemic is more than likely to have worsened this dismissal of high vegetables and fruit intake. The virus put a heavy strain on the country’s economy, and the supply chain went through a hefty ordeal. 

Plus, those who were stressed or experienced a decline in mental state were more likely not to eat as healthily. The pandemic had a major role in people’s active lifestyles, disrupting their regular routine. 

As with the healthy food intake, the lack of physical activity also had demographic and geographic differences. The South was considered the most inactive. Seven states, such as Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Arkansas, had 30% or more adults reporting inactivity. 

Colorado had the biggest physical activity rates, with just 18% of adults claiming they were inactive. Around all territories and states, non-Hispanic Asian adults had the lowest physical inactivity prevalence, with only 20% being inactive. Whereas 32% of Hispanic adults were inactive. 

Tip: To experience profound health benefits, adults should do a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity workouts a week. 

What Are the Health Effects of the Average American Diet?

Why should we eat healthily? This is a question that pops up a lot. The average American diet can profoundly impact a person’s weight and mental and physical state. 

Eating a ton of sugar and trans fats, which is very popular among both American children and adults, can contribute to a drop in insulin sensitivity, and heart dysfunction. It can also aggravate asthma symptoms. 

These types of food choices are predominantly known for affecting your mental state. They are linked with a bigger incidence of depressive symptoms, impaired memory, and learning. 

For a young child, especially in the stages of development, it is critical to focus on healthy food choices. They may not be the most practical and the easiest food options but are the most beneficial in terms of acquiring promising health benefits. 

What Are the Health Effects of Not Exercising?

Being a couch potato does have its negative impact. Leading a sedentary lifestyle can increase the likelihood of becoming obese, having metabolic syndrome, elevated cholesterol, and blood pressure. 

It can also take a toll on your cardiac health, bone health, flexibility, and mobility. Those who don’t exercise as much as they want to report feeling anxious or depressed. 


How to Improve Your Health With Diet and Exercise

There are ways you can overcome these boundaries and keep your health on the right track. If you’ve been inactive for a pretty long time, then there is no need to go “all-in” right off the bat. Start slowly and incorporate activities gradually. 

Choose exercises you find comfortable, like walking, hiking, and swimming. Then, slowly work on doing more as you build up the stamina and energy for it. 

Do some yard work and gardening. Then move on to some simple exercise equipment. Use something you have at hand, such as yoga balls, exercise mats, hand weights, etc. You can use them to ramp up your activities and get the body back in shape. 

When it comes to eating healthy on a budget, you can opt for whole foods. They are cheaper than processed products and are a great source of nutrients. 

Buy fruits and veggies that are in season, as they often go on sale. You can also opt for the frozen varieties and still get the necessary nutrients. 

Don’t forget to plan your spending beforehand and stick to your shopping list while you are at it. That way, you can avoid overspending. 


Your food and beverage choice matters. It can be a hefty process to get accustomed to an adequate intake of nutrients that can help you maintain a stable body weight. 

But, for the nation, things are a lot simpler if people can just eat fast food, drink sugary beverages and call it a day. 

If you want to curb the health risks, fat intake, and get the right nutrient intake, you can ask for advice from a specialist. They can show you the ropes of managing your carbohydrate intake and boost your activity levels.

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  1. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Examination of Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols; Wartella EA, Lichtenstein AH, Boon CS, editors. Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Phase I Report. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209844/
  2. Leading reasons consumers eat fast food in the United States as of November 2020. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1237187/biggest-reasons-why-us-consumers-eat-fast-food/
  3. Martínez Steele E, Baraldi LG, Louzada ML, Moubarac JC, Mozaffarian D, Monteiro CA. Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the US diet: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study. BMJ Open. 2016. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/3/e009892

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