ERS Charts of Note
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Most Americans have plenty of room to improve the nutritional quality of their diets and how they spend their food dollars. ERS researchers analyzed dietary recall data from the 2011-12 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that average dietary scores of consumers across different household incomes ranged from 48.1 to 54.5 on a scale from 0 to 100. (A score of 100 indicated full compliance with Federal dietary guidance.) How consumers allocate their grocery store food dollars among food categories reflect these scores. U.S. households across income levels had similar spending patterns for most food categories—allocating a much smaller share to fruits and vegetables (17 to 19 percent) than miscellaneous foods, such as soft drinks, frozen meals, salad dressings, and snacks (34 to 37 percent). This chart appears in “Following Dietary Guidance Need Not Cost More—But Many Americans Would Need to Re-Allocate Their Food Budgets” in ERS’s September 2015 Amber Waves magazine.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
When consumers are advised in the produce aisle that “More Matters,” they are not just being encouraged to eat a greater quantity of fruits and vegetables, but more variety as well. Restricting one’s diet to a limited set of vegetables precludes the desired variety that would supply more diverse, healthful nutrients. According to ERS’s Food Availability data, just three vegetables—white potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce—accounted for 59 percent of the vegetables and legumes that were available for consumption in 2013. White potatoes accounted for 30 percent of the 384.4 pounds per person of vegetables and legumes available in 2013. Tomatoes had a 22-percent share, with 20.2 pounds per person of fresh tomatoes and 65.9 pounds per person of processed tomatoes. Fresh lettuce (head lettuce, romaine, and leaf lettuce) rounded out the top 3 vegetables at 25.5 pounds per person—7 percent of 2013’s total vegetable and legume availability. This chart appears in “Potatoes and Tomatoes Account for Over Half of U.S. Vegetable Availability” in the September 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are the lead Federal agencies that conduct and fund human nutrition research. From 1985 to 2009, funding shifted from research at Federal nutrition laboratories and land-grant universities toward competitive research grants for non-Federal researchers, as DHHS’s share of total nutrition research funding grew from 79 to 93 percent. Over this period, the share of federally funded nutrition research projects conducted by government researchers fell from 12 to 6 percent and the share conducted by land-grant universities declined from 34 to 22 percent. In 2009, non-land-grant universities accounted for 41 percent of Federal nutrition research projects and other institutions (medical schools, hospitals, and research institutions) had a 29-percent share—up from 30 percent and 22 percent, respectively, in 1985. This chart appears in “Federal Support for Nutrition Research Trends Upward as USDA Share Declines” in the June 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
When it comes to vegetable consumption, “More Matters.” Eating a variety and sufficient quantity of vegetables is important for good health, but how much would it cost to add some baby carrots, romaine lettuce, or fresh asparagus to your diet? ERS estimated average prices paid in 2013 for 93 fresh and processed vegetables (including beans and peas), measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 2 cups for lettuce and other raw leafy greens. ERS researchers found that fresh iceberg lettuce, fresh whole carrots, dried pinto beans, and 13 other products cost less than 40 cents per cup equivalent, while 58 vegetables, including fresh romaine lettuce, baby carrots, and canned tomatoes, cost between 40 and 79 cents per cup equivalent. Fresh asparagus, at $2.58 per cup equivalent, is the priciest of these 93 vegetables. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Food intake surveys find Americans consuming about half the amount of recommended fruits per day. One reason may be that some consumers perceive fruit to be expensive. ERS calculated average prices paid in 2013 for 63 fresh and processed fruits measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 1/2 cup for raisins and other dried fruits. The amount of fruit a person should eat per day depends on age, gender, and level of activity. For a 2,000-calorie diet, 2 cup equivalents of fruits per day is recommended. Fresh watermelon at 21 cents per cup equivalent and apple juice (made from concentrate) at 27 cents were the lowest priced fruits, while fresh blackberries, fresh raspberries, and canned cherries were the priciest. Thirty-five fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup equivalent. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product on the ERS website, updated March 19, 2015.
Friday, March 6, 2015
Research has shown that participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) tend to consume lower quality diets than nonparticipants. Pessimism about the value of dietary change may be one of the culprits. Analysis of responses to questions in the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey module of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that 40 percent of SNAP participants indicated that they felt no need to change their diets; in contrast, only 25 percent of higher income shoppers felt no need to make dietary changes. (Higher income adults are those with household incomes above 185 percent of the Federal poverty threshold.) SNAP participants were also more likely than other respondents to agree with the statement "some people are born to be fat and some thin; there is not much you can do to change this.” This may indicate differences in perceptions of self-efficacy among SNAP participants compared to higher income shoppers. Alternatively, it may be that the other stresses of living in poverty make maintaining diet and health as a top priority more difficult. This chart appears in “SNAP Households Must Balance Multiple Priorities to Achieve a Healthful Diet” in the November 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are the lead Federal agencies in conducting and funding human nutrition research designed to help ensure a healthy citizenry. A recent ERS analysis of data maintained by DHHS’s National Institutes of Health shows that Federal investments in nutrition research more than doubled in real (inflation-adjusted) terms from 1985 to 2009. All of this growth is due to increased DHHS funding, especially between 1999 and 2003. The number of Federally supported nutrition research projects has similarly grown from 2,178 in 1985 to 4,419 in 2009, with a larger share of support in recent years directed toward studies of the relationship between nutrition and obesity. From 1999 to 2009, the number of DHHS supported projects grew 7.4 percent annually, while USDA supported projects fell by 2.8 percent annually. In 2009, DHHS funded 86 percent of Federal nutrition research projects, and USDA funded 14 percent. This chart appears in the ERS report, Improving Health through Nutrition Research: An Overview of the U.S. Nutrition Research System, released on January 26, 2015.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Dietary intake data reveal that like most Americans, the dietary patterns of participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) do not meet recommendations. ERS researchers used data from the 2003-10 waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to assess the diets of adult SNAP participants and other adult respondents relative to the 2010 version of the Healthy Eating Index (HEI). The HEI summarizes how closely one’s diet conforms to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Total HEI scores for adult SNAP participants averaged 46 out of a possible 100 HEI points, compared to 50 for income-eligible adults not receiving SNAP benefits, and 53 for higher-income adults (those with household incomes above 185 percent of the Federal poverty threshold). Adult SNAP participants scored lower on many components of the HEI; sodium intake was the only HEI component on which SNAP participants did better than higher-income adults. An expanded version of this chart appears in “SNAP Households Must Balance Multiple Priorities to Achieve a Healthful Diet” in the November 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Friday, July 12, 2013
While Americans may be willing to forgo calories in their soft drinks and desserts, they seem less willing to embrace foods with lower fat and sodium levels. Mandatory nutrition labeling and consumer concerns about fat prompted food manufacturers to offer lower fat versions of high-fat foods in the early and mid-1990s. Products with “low/no fat” claims grew from 9 percent of all new products in 1989 to over 25 percent in 1996. But many consumers found the taste of these new fat-free and low-fat foods disappointing, which may have led companies to limit their use of low/no fat claims. From 1997 to 2001, the percentage of new products with low/no fat claims fell from 22 to 10 percent. Concerns that consumers associate poor taste with reduced-sodium foods may have contributed to fewer low/no sodium claims, as well. Products claiming to be “low/no sodium,” “low/no salt,” or “no salt added” fell from 12 percent of all new products in 1989 to 3 percent in 2001, before rising to 5 percent in 2010. This chart appears in “Obesity and Other Health Concerns Lead Food Companies To Step Up Health and Nutrient Claims” in ERS’s July 2013 Amber Waves magazine.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
U.S. fluid milk consumption has fallen over the last 40 years from an average of 0.96 cups per person per day in 1970 to 0.61 cups in 2010. A recent ERS study found that changes in the frequency of drinking milk since the 1970s, not in portion sizes, contributed to the trend. Between 1977-78 and 2007-08, the share of children age 2-12 that did not drink fluid milk on a given day rose from 12 percent to 24 percent, while the share that drank milk three or more times per day dropped from 31 to 18 percent. The share of teenagers and adults who did not drink fluid milk on a given day rose from 41 to 54 percent, and the share that drank milk three or more times fell from 13 to 4 percent. This chart appears in the ERS report, Why Are Americans Consuming Less Fluid Milk? A Look at Generational Differences in Intake Frequency, ERR-149, released May 29, 2013.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides eligible low-income households with monthly benefits to purchase food. One goal of the program is to support low-income families in making food choices consistent with dietary guidance. ERS researchers recently examined how the program affects the diets of participants. One finding that stands out is that SNAP increases the likelihood that participants will consume whole fruit by over 23 percentage points. Before participants enroll in SNAP, they rarely ever eat whole fruit on a given day. After they enroll in the program, SNAP participants have a 25-percent probability of eating whole fruit. Low-income individuals who are not participating in SNAP have a 53-percent probability and high-income individuals a 66-percent probability of eating whole fruit on a given day. This chart is based on statistics in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation Leads to Modest Changes in Diet Quality, ERR-147, released April 24, 2013.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
A healthy diet is the result of a chain of decisions extending from food purchase to consumption, with many of those decisions taking place in the grocery store. ERS researchers compared U.S. consumers’ at-home food purchases, as recorded by Nielsen Homescan panelists, with USDA food spending guidelines for obtaining a diet that meets the Dietary Guidelines. The ERS analysis found that food spending patterns showed little improvement between 1998 and 2006, except for an increase in the share of spending devoted to whole grains, coupled with a decline in refined grains’ share. On a less positive note, panelists allocated less of their food budgets to fruits and vegetables and more to packaged and processed foods and beverages. Expenditure shares for fruits and vegetables each fell by 1.4 percentage points between 1998 and 2006, while the expenditure share for packaged and processed foods rose by 3.2 percentage points. This chart appears in the February 2013 Amber Waves feature, Americans’ Food Choices at Home and Away: How Do They Compare With Recommendations?
Friday, March 22, 2013
Intake data from the 2005-08 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that Americans age 2 and older consumed an average of 3,085 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, higher than the current Federal recommendation of less than 2,300 mg per day. Home foods—those obtained at supermarkets, convenience stores, and other retail outlets—provided 68 percent of Americans’ daily calories and 64 percent of sodium intake. Foods purchased from restaurants with wait staff were the most sodium dense at 2,151 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories, followed by fast-food fare at 1,864 mg per 1,000 calories. Home foods had a lower sodium density than away from home foods. The data for this chart came from “Americans’ Food Choices at Home and Away: How Do They Compare With Recommendations?” in the February 2013 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
With food prepared at home accounting for close to two-thirds of Americans’ daily calories, purchasing choices made in the grocery store are the first steps to a healthy diet. ERS researchers compared consumers’ 1998-2006 grocery store purchases with USDA food spending guidelines for a nutritious diet and found that consumer spending came close to matching the guidelines for only 1 food category examined—potatoes. Grocery purchases as recorded by Nielsen Homescan panelists were compared with nutritionally-appropriate expenditure shares for 23 broad categories of foods and beverages. Panelists underspent on all vegetable categories, except potatoes. For example, they spent only 0.5 percent of their food budgets on dark green vegetables, while the food plan recommended 7 percent. Panelists also underspent on whole grains, whole fruit, lower fat dairy, nuts, poultry, and fish. They overspent on refined grains, fruit juices, regular dairy products, red meats, beverages, and sugar and candies. This chart appears in “Americans’ Food Choices at Home and Away: How Do They Compare With Recommendations?” in the February 2013 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Friday, February 1, 2013
Intake data from the 2005-08 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that Americans age 2 and older consumed an average of 2,002 calories per day, with 68 percent of those calories coming from at-home foods obtained at supermarkets, convenience stores, and other retail outlets. Thirty years ago, at-home foods accounted for 82 percent of U.S. caloric intake. Between 1977 and 2008, the share of calories from foods purchased at restaurants with wait staff doubled from 3.3 to 6.7 percent and fast-food places’ share grew from 3.1 to 13.2 percent. School’s share of total caloric intake rose from 3.0 to 3.7 percent. This chart appears in the ERS report, Nutritional Quality of Food Prepared at Home and Away From Home, 1977-2008, EIB-105, December 2012. See also the blog post in USDA’s Science Tuesday series.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
A recent analysis by ERS of national food consumption surveys found that Americans' average calcium intake rose from 743 milligrams (mg) a day in 1977-78 to 919 mg in 2005-08. The calcium density of at-home foods bought in supermarkets, convenience stores, and other retail outlets rose from 425 mg per 1,000 calories in 1977-78 to 559 mg in 2005-08. The calcium density of foods purchased at restaurants, fast food places, and other away-from-home sources remained relatively constant at 452-460 mg per 1,000 calories. Calcium densities between the two periods were the same or higher for foods from restaurants and fast-food places. The calcium density of foods obtained at school dropped between 1977-78 and 2005-08, probably due to increased availability of non-USDA foods and beverages for sale in schools. This chart appears in the ERS report, Nutritional Quality of Food Prepared at Home and Away From Home, 1977-2008, EIB-105, December 2012.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Researchers in health, nutrition, and epidemiology have established a causal link between dietary quality and health outcomes, such as obesity, overweight, and diabetes. Additional research has shown that the incidence of these detrimental outcomes can vary substantially across racial and ethnic groups in the United States. ERS researchers examined the healthfulness of grocery purchases as it varies by race in an effort to determine the role that food prepared at home might play in these differences. The healthfulness of household grocery purchases was assessed by using USDA’s Healthy Eating Index. Shopping baskets were assigned scores from 0-100 based on adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The findings demonstrate that the differences across racial groups are small. At-home food purchases were slightly more healthful for Whites (including Hispanics) and Asians than they were for Blacks and people of other races. More importantly, the results show that people of all races have much room for improvement in their dietary quality. This chart appears in the ERS report, Assessing the Healthfulness of Consumers’ Grocery Purchases, EIB-102, November 2012.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Replacing calorie-dense snack foods with calorie-sparse fruits and vegetables can be one step in addressing childhood obesity and does not have to compromise a family’s food budget. An ERS analysis of prices per portion for 20 common snack foods and 20 potential fruit and vegetable substitutes found that 9 of the 20 fruits and vegetables and 8 of the 20 snack foods cost 25 cents per portion or less; an additional 8 fruits and vegetables and 10 snack foods cost between 26 and 50 cents per portion. On average, the 20 fruits and vegetables cost 31 cents per portion and the 20 snack foods cost 33 cents per portion. A household making all possible 400 substitutions between the 20 snack foods and the 20 fruits and vegetables would save an average of 2 cents and 126 calories per swap. The statistics in this chart are from "Gobbling Up Snacks: Cause or Potential Cure for Childhood Obesity?" in the December 2012 issue of ERS’ Amber Waves magazine.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Americans seem to be heeding the advice of nutritionists to seek out lower fat foods—at least when it comes to fluid milk. In 2010, the per capita supply of whole milk available for consumption fell to 5.6 gallons from 6 gallons in 2009, according to ERS’s food availability data, continuing its long-term decline from a peak at 40.5 gallons per capita in 1943. Per capita availability of lower fat milk, which includes milks with milk fat levels ranging from 2 percent to skim milk and buttermilk, began rising in 1967, and in 1987, at 13.1 gallons per capita overtook whole milk. Per capita supplies of lower fat milk have remained fairly stable since leveling off in 1989 at around 14 to 15 gallons. Total beverage milk consumption continues to drop as other beverages compete to quench America’s thirst. The data for this chart come from ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Dietary quality can vary across households throughout the United States. This is likely the result of a combination of both supply and demand factors. On the supply side, the geography of the food environment, as defined by the number and type of food retailers, can vary across markets. On the demand side, there are differences in local and regional food preferences. Researchers at ERS scored the nutritional quality of grocery store purchases of American households in 56 geographic markets using an approach similar to USDA’s Healthy Eating Index (HEI). Under the HEI, scores range from 0 to 100, with 100 indicating perfect adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Average scores for the markets ranged from 52 in New Orleans, LA to 62 for Syracuse, NY. The average U.S. score was 56, indicating that the grocery store choices of Americans across the Nation fall short of fully adhering to Federal recommendations. This chart appears in the ERS report, Assessing the Healthfulness of Consumers’ Grocery Purchases, EIB-102, November 2012. See also the blog post in USDA’s Science Tuesday series.