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What time of day do Americans engage in primary and secondary eating?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Errata: On May 12, 2017, three numbers in the text of this Chart of Note were revised to correct for erroneous double counting during the indicated 3-hour time period. The corrected percentages are 59 percent reported primary eating and drinking between 5:00 and 7:59 pm, 50 percent between 11:00 am and 1:59 pm, and 34 percent between 7:00 and 9:59 am in 2015.


Data from the Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey provide a snapshot of when Americans eat and drink as their main activity (primary eating and drinking), or when they eat while doing something else (secondary eating). Over an average day in 2015, 95 percent of people age 15 and older engaged in primary eating and drinking at least once, with an average of 2.1 times. Americans have two peak times for primary eating and drinking—noon to 12:59 pm and 6:00 to 6:59 pm. More Americans make time for dinner than for lunch as a primary activity; 59 percent reported primary eating and drinking between 5:00 and 7:59 pm and 50 percent between 11:00 am and 1:59 pm. A third (34 percent) reported eating breakfast as a primary activity between 7:00 and 9:59 am in 2015. Those breakfast skippers—and others—may be grazing throughout the day, as 54 percent ate as a secondary activity at least once during a typical day in 2015, with an average of 1.4 times. From 9 am to 9 pm, at least 5 percent of Americans engaged in secondary eating each hour. The top three activities that accompanied secondary eating were watching television and movies, paid work, and socializing with others. A version of this chart appears in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.

Households shopping at supermarkets, supercenters, and warehouse club stores have highest healthy basket scores

Monday, May 8, 2017

Over the past two decades, some store formats—including supercenters, dollar stores, and warehouse club stores—have increased their share of Americans’ spending on “at-home food”—food and beverages purchased from retail stores. Shifts between store formats could have implications for shopping patterns. A recent ERS study computed “healthy basket” scores for monthly at-home food and beverage purchases. The higher the score, the closer a household’s purchases aligned with healthy-diet expenditure shares. Baskets were categorized by the format accounting for the household’s largest share of food expenditures. Scores were highest for households predominantly shopping at warehouse club stores (8.3), supermarkets (8.2), and supercenters (8.0). Household food baskets dominated by purchases from drug stores, convenience stores, and dollar stores had the least healthful purchases. Over 2008-12, an average of 67 percent of households in the data predominantly shopped at supermarkets, 17 percent at supercenters, and 6 percent at warehouse club stores. The other 10 percent shopped predominately at drug, dollar, convenience, and other store formats. This chart appears in "Households Purchase More Produce and Low-Fat Dairy at Supermarkets, Supercenters, and Warehouse Club Stores" in ERS’s Amber Waves magazine, May 2017.

Seafood was one of the least consumed protein foods in 2014

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Seafood (fish and shellfish) is a nutrient-rich source of dietary protein which is relatively low in calories and saturated fat compared to some other protein sources. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that Americans eat a variety of protein foods, including at least two servings of seafood per week. According to ERS loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed about 2.7 ounces of fish and shellfish per person per week in 2014, about one-third of the 8-ounce weekly minimum recommended for an average 2,000-calorie diet. Consumers’ appetites for fish and shellfish lagged behind most other foods in the protein group. Seafood demand may be limited by a number of factors, including a lack of awareness about the health benefits of seafood, inexperience with cooking methods and recipes, higher retail prices on average when compared with meat and poultry, and concerns about food safety and mislabeling of imported seafood products. This chart appears in “Americans’ Seafood Consumption Below Recommendations” in the October 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Across income groups, fast food largest source of food-away-from-home calories

Friday, October 21, 2016

Federal food intake surveys conducted between 1977 and 2012 reveal that meals and snacks from fast food places accounted for more of Americans’ away-from-home calories than food from full-service restaurants, school cafeterias, or other away-from-home eating places. In 1977-78, eating places with no wait staff (fast food) provided 5.7 percent of daily calories for those age 2 and older, while food prepared by restaurants with wait staff provided 3.2 percent. By 2011-12, fast food’s share of calories had increased to 15.8 percent, while restaurant foods provided 8.9 percent of daily calories. Fast food’s ranking as the largest contributor to away-from-home calories held true for both higher income individuals (household income above 185 percent of the Federal poverty line) and individuals with incomes below that amount. In all of these surveys, higher income consumers obtained a larger share of their calories from foods prepared by restaurants (11.2 percent in 2011-12) than did lower income consumers (5.8 percent in 2011-12). This chart appears in “Linking Federal Food Intake Surveys Provides a More Accurate Look at Eating Out Trends” in the June 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Fresh and frozen shellfish lead the growth in seafood availability

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The supply of seafood available for consumption in the United States is up from 11.7 pounds per person in 1970—but down from a peak of 16.5 pounds in 2006—according to ERS food availability data. In 1970, fresh and frozen shellfish accounted for 21 percent of seafood availability. In 2014, by comparison, fresh and frozen shellfish (mostly shrimp) accounted for 34 percent of the 14.5 pounds per capita of seafood available for consumption. New efficiencies in shrimp aquaculture beginning in the early 1980s, which sharply increased availability and reduced prices, made shrimp a popular menu item at fast casual dining places across the United States. A 35-percent decline in canned tuna availability since 2000 was largely offset by a surge in fresh and frozen fish availability from low-cost imports of farm-raised salmon and tilapia and the increased use of wild-caught Alaska pollock in frozen fish sticks, imitation crab meat, and fast-food sandwiches. This chart appears in “Americans’ Seafood Consumption Below Recommendations” in the October 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Non-Hispanic Blacks were the only racial/ethnic group to increase whole fruit and total fruit consumption between 1994-98 and 2007-08

Friday, September 2, 2016

A recent linking of ERS?s loss-adjusted food availability data with food intake surveys from 1994-2008 revealed that Non-Hispanic Blacks were the only group of the racial/ethnic groups examined that had higher whole fruit and total fruit consumption in 2007-08 compared with 1994-98. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that at least half of a person?s recommended fruit consumption be whole fruit. Non-Hispanic Blacks increased their whole fruit consumption to 71.4 pounds per person in 2007-08?an amount still below that of Hispanics and the "other" racial/ethnic group. All four racial/ethnic groups consumed smaller quantities of orange juice and larger quantities of apple juice in 2007-08. Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics had the largest increases in apple juice consumption. This chart appears in?A Closer Look at Declining Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Using Linked Data Sources? in the July 2016 issue of ERS?s Amber Waves magazine.

Fruit more prevalent on school menus and in foods eaten at home in Americans' diets

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Data from the 2003-04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that foods served at schools contained 0.71 cups of fruit per 1,000 calories, a higher density of fruit than served at restaurants with wait staff, fast food places, and other away from home eating places, and a little higher than foods eaten at home. ERS researchers used USDA's MyPyramid Equivalents Database to convert the over 7,000 foods reported by NHANES participants into food group components. For example, carrot-raisin salad was converted into cups of fruit and cups of vegetables. The data in this chart are from the Food and Nutrient Intake Tables (table 2) in the Diet Quality & Food Consumption topic on the ERS website, updated June 15, 2011.

Fruits and vegetables comparable in price per portion to snack foods

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

Per capita availability of whole milk continues to decline, low-fat milk steady

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

Foods prepared at home are less sodium dense than those from restaurants, but still above guidelines

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Reducing sodium intake is a key recommendation in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.? Intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that Americans age 2 and older consumed an average of 1,649 milligrams (mg) of sodium for each 1,000 calories eaten, compared to the recommended maximum of 1,100 mg per 1,000 calories. Foods prepared by restaurants, fast-food places, schools, and other away-from-home sources contain more sodium than foods prepared at home?1,879 mg per 1,000 calories versus 1,552 mg per 1,000 calories. Foods consumed at school cafeterias were found to be less sodium dense than foods eaten at restaurants and fast-food places, but higher than at-home foods. The statistics in this chart are from ERS?s Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes data product, updated on June 27, 2014.

School foods are the richest source of dairy products in children's diets

Thursday, September 1, 2016

?Back to school? means back to school-provided lunches and breakfasts for many students.? Intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that school foods provide the highest dairy product density among all food sources in children?s diets. For each 1,000 calories consumed by children age 2-19, school foods offer an average of 1.9 cups of dairy products, compared to 0.9 cups for foods from restaurants and fast food places. School foods are the only food source that meets the recommended amount of dairy products. Foods consumed by children at home contain 1.2 cups of dairy products for each 1,000 calories, higher than the 0.9 cups in food consumed by adults at home.? The statistics for this chart are from ERS?s Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes data product.

Americans aren't eating enough dark green, red, and orange vegetables

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Expressing food consumption in terms of density?the amount of food eaten per 1,000 calories?allows a person?s intake to be compared with benchmark densities based on recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Such comparisons can reveal shortfalls and excesses in American diets. Analysis of intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that Americans under-consume whole grains, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and vegetables. In 2007-10, U.S. adults consumed 0.76 cups of total vegetables per 1,000 calories and 0.25 cups of dark green, red, and orange vegetables, while children consumed 0.49 cups and 0.17 cups, respectively. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 1.25 cups of total vegetables and 0.50 cups of dark green, red, and orange vegetables per 1,000 calories for a 2,000-calorie diet. Lower income individuals consumed a smaller amount of dark green, red, and orange vegetables than those with higher incomes. This chart appears in ?Food Consumption and Nutrient Intake Data?Tools for Assessing Americans? Diets? in the October 2014 issue of ERS?s Amber Waves magazine.

Potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce make up close to 60 percent of U.S. vegetable and legume availability

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, fresh is not always cheaper than canned or frozen

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Fruits and vegetables can be purchased in fresh, canned, dried, and juiced forms. Oftentimes, different forms of the same fruit or vegetable are interchangeable. For example, when cooking some types of stew, fresh or frozen carrots may be used. However, which is less expensive, fresh or processed? ERS researchers estimated average prices paid in 2013 for 24 fresh fruits, 40 fresh vegetables, and 92 processed fruits and vegetables, measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a standard 1-cup measuring cup; for lettuce and other raw leafy vegetables, a cup equivalent is 2 cups, and for raisins and other dried fruits, one-half cup. Neither fresh nor processed products turned out to be consistently less expensive. Fresh carrots eaten raw are less expensive to consume than canned carrots and frozen carrots. Fresh apples are similarly cheaper than applesauce. However, canned corn and frozen raspberries are less costly than fresh corn and fresh raspberries, respectively. Relative retail prices may reflect the different prices received by growers, as well as differences in processing, handling, and spoilage costs, which vary by form and product. This chart appears in ?Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations Can Be Met for $2.10 to $2.60 per Day? in ERS?s Amber Waves magazine, March 2016.

Bananas and apples remain America's favorite fresh fruits

Thursday, September 1, 2016

According to ERS's loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed an average of 46.5 pounds of fresh fruit per person in 2010, up from 34.7 pounds in 1970. While bananas and apples still top the list of most popular fresh fruits, the amount of bananas consumed grew from 7 pounds per person in 1970 to 10.4 pounds in 2010, whereas consumption of fresh apples decreased from 10.4 pounds to 9.5 pounds. Watermelons and grapes moved up in the rankings, while per person consumption of fresh oranges fell by 2.1 pounds over the last four decades. Strawberries replaced pears on the list of America's most commonly consumed fresh fruits. The data for this chart come from ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated August 20, 2012.

Per capita food spending varies more internationally than per capita food availability

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Per capita food-at-home spending differs widely across countries. For example, in 2011 food-at-home spending was $2,239 per person in the United States, $452 in lower middle-income Cameroon, and just $276 in low-income Kenya. However, higher food spending does not always translate into higher food consumption. South African consumers, for example, spent more per person on at-home foods than Chinese consumers, but per person calories available for consumption were about the same in both countries. Japanese consumers outspent U.S. consumers on at-home foods, but per person calorie availability in Japan was lower. At-home food spending reflects general food price levels, prices for the particular foods purchased (grains versus meats), and, for higher income countries, the mix of at-home and away-from-home eating. While the average consumer in the United States spends more than 8 times as much on food at home as the average person in Kenya, per capita calorie availability is less than 80 percent higher. All eight countries had per capita calorie availability over 2,000 per day, but averages can mask large differences in food spending, access, and consumption within a country. This chart is based on data from the ERS Food Expenditures data product, updated October 2012.

Editor's Pick 2014, #4:<br>Americans consume more than double the recommended maximum of added sugars

Thursday, September 1, 2016

If you have a sweet tooth, you are not alone. A recent analysis of intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that U.S. children ate an average of 9.7 teaspoons of added sugars for each 1,000 calories consumed, and adults consumed 8.4 teaspoons of added sugars per 1,000 calories. Added sugars are the sugars, syrups, and other caloric sweeteners added to foods, including table sugar added to coffee and high fructose corn syrup used in soft drinks, ketchup, and other processed foods. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that added sugars and added fats should account for no more than 258 calories of a 2,000-calorie diet. Half of this maximum coming from added sugars would equal 3.9 teaspoons per 1,000 calories?less than half of what Americans are consuming. The analysis also found that on average, lower-income individuals consumed more added sugars than higher-income individuals. This chart appears in ?Food Consumption and Nutrient Intake Data?Tools for Assessing Americans? Diets? in the October 2014 issue of ERS?s Amber Waves magazine. Originally published Friday October 10, 2014.

Allocation of food-at-home expenditures across food categories does not vary much by income

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

Two-percent milk accounts for the largest share of fluid milk availability

Thursday, September 1, 2016

According to ERS?s Food Availability data, 19.1 gallons of fluid milk were available for each U.S. consumer to drink in 2013, down from a peak of 42.3 gallons in 1945. Declining per capita milk consumption reflects a variety of factors?competition from soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water, and other beverages; generational differences in the frequency of milk drinking; and a more ethnically diverse population, some of whose diets do not normally include fluid milk. Plain (unflavored) 2-percent milk surpassed plain whole milk in 2005 and became America?s most popular milk. In 2013, plain 2-percent milk accounted for 35 percent of fluid milk availability (6.7 gallons per person), while plain whole-milk availability was 5.2 gallons per person, down from its high of 38 gallons in 1945. Plain 1-percent milk and skim milk each accounted for 14 percent of fluid milk availability. Flavored milks, such as chocolate and strawberry, made up 9 percent of fluid milk availability in 2013. This chart appears in ERS?s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated September 18, 2015.

Working-age Americans spend more time eating while doing something else than other age groups do

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Analyzing the time Americans spend in various activities, and, in particular, food-related activities, may provide some insight into why nutrition and health outcomes vary over time and across different segments of the population. According to the ERS-developed Eating and Health Module of the nationally representative American Time Use Survey, on an average day in 2014, Americans age 15 and older spent 64 minutes eating and drinking as a ?primary? or main activity. They spent an additional 16 minutes in eating as a secondary activity, that is, while doing something else such as watching television, driving, preparing meals, or working. People age 65 and older spent considerably more time on average in primary eating and drinking?76 minutes?than those in the younger age groups. Those age 65 and older who were employed spent about the same amount of time in primary eating/drinking and in secondary eating as their peers who were not employed, indicating that there may be generational differences in eating patterns not driven by the amount of time available in retirement. Working-age individuals, ages 25-64, spent the most time in secondary eating in 2014. This chart is from ERS? Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product, updated May 16, 2016.

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