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The changing American diet.

If the United States got a Food Report Card, it would barely be pulling a C+ average. The Surgeon General and our other "teachers" have told us to eat:

* fewer fatty foods like red meat, cheese, whole milk, butter, and margarine.

* more complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, and

* fewer sugary foods like soft drinks, candy, and ice cream.

New figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that we're following some of this advice We're eating fewer eggs, less whole milk, and less beef than we did a decade ago. And avoiding the saturated fat and cholesterol in these foods has paid off. Since 1978, the number of Americans dying of hear disease has dropped by 29 percent.

But other changes show that we're not quite ready for the Honor Roll. Instead of replacing saturated fats with complex carbohydrates, we've replaced them with unsaturated fats.

"It's clear we haven't made much progress in getting people to eat less [total] fat, but we have been successful in changing the composition of fat," says Mark Hegsted, of Harvard University.

In other words, we're eating more chicken instead of beef, but it's fried chicken; more baked goods, but they're fatty baked goods; and more salads, but they're mothered in oily dressings.

It's not just our fat tooth that's insatiable. Despite the popularity of artificial sweeteners, we're consuming more sugars than ever before. And we now down more soft drinks than milk.

The influence of fast-food restaurants on our eating habits continues to grow. Chicken, soft drinks, salad, American and pizza cheese - just about all the foods we're eating more of are prominent on fast-food menus.

These grades rate not what we eat, but how we've changed what we eat over the last decade. For example, even though we still eat too many eggs (yolks), they get an "A," because we're eating fewer of them.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Center for Science in the Public Interest
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:May 1, 1990
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