The average American diet is more unbalanced than ever, the result of too many foods low in essential nutrients and high in fat, sodium, and added sugars.1 ,2, 3 Unhealthy diets have become a significant public health issue, leading to overweight individuals, obesity, and other diet-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.4


The major contributors to an unbalanced diet are sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.2, 3, 4 The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that calories from added sugar not exceed 25% of the total calories in the diet5 and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that saturated fat intake be limited to 7% of calories and sodium intake be limited to 1,500 mg a day.6 Unfortunately, the American diet greatly exceeds all of these recommendations.


Excessive intake of unhealthy foods and inadequate intake of nutrient dense foods results in lower-than recommended levels of some nutrients in the American diet, namely calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and fiber.4



Dietary Recommendations

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommend increasing intake of foods like fruits, vegetables, seafood, and whole grains. Food components to reduce include sodium, saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, added sugar, and refined grains. The DGA also recommend increasing intake of nutrient-dense foods, such as fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, like yogurt, to three servings per day. Currently, Americans consume only about half of the daily recommendation of low-fat and non-fat dairy products.4


1. Krebs-Smith SM, Guenther PM, Subar AE, Kirkpatrick SI, Dodd, KW. Americans do not meet federal dietary recommendations. J Nutr. 2010;140:1832-38.
2. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2010.
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Available at: Accessed April 1, 2013.
4. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2010. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC.
5. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, Dietary Reference Intakes: Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2002.
6. Lloyd-Jones DM, Hong Y, Labarthe D, Mozaffarian D, Appel LJ, Van Horn L, Greenlund K, Daniels S, Nichol G, Tomaselli GF, et al. American Heart Association Strategic Planning Task Force and Statistics Committee. Defining and setting national goals for cardiovascular health promotion and disease reduction: the American Heart Association’s strategic impact goal through 2020 and beyond. Circulation. 2010;121:586-613.