As I began to create this blog, it started out with information regarding excess calorie consumption and where those calories may be coming from. I realized that I wasn’t exactly sure where excess calories were coming from or what the biggest downfalls of the American diet really were. I know what I thought they were, but I wasn’t sure if that held true throughout the United States. Are we eating too much sugar? Too little fiber? Is the American diet really that bad? I was reminded that nutrition can’t just be opinion-based, so I went looking for the research. Here is what I found!

According to the data, our largest percent of energy intake (calories) is coming from mixed dishes, specifically burgers, tacos, sandwiches, and pizza. Those foods are also our largest source of saturated fat and sodium.

According to the data

The American diet overall is full of “excess,” including excess calories, sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. Today I am going to focus on our high intake of saturated fat and added sugars and why it is important to recognize the need to decrease our intake to stay within recommended amounts.


Saturated fat is found in animal meats, lard, cream, butter, cheese, milk, and baked goods. Saturated fat is important to pay attention to especially when it comes to heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women… about 610,000 people every year. The recommended intake for saturated fat is 10% of daily calories. NHANES found that majority of people across both sexes and age groups are consuming above that 10%.

% of males who consume over 10% of calories from saturated fat

>50% of males age 19-70

% of females who consume over 10% of calories from saturated fat

>65% of females between ages 19-70

Oil intake was found to be low for both sexes and all age groups. Replacing some solid, saturated fats with oils can help balance out intake.


The recommended amount of added sugars for both men and women is 10% of calories. The reason we recommend limiting added sugars is because they typically are not adding anything other than extra calories to our diet. Added sugar is usually found in already highly processed, calorie-dense foods and does not contain essential vitamins and minerals, nor does it offer fiber, protein, or healthy fats to our diet. While I don’t believe it is necessary to cut out all added sugar, I do recommend replacing some added sugars with more nutrient-dense foods!

We have seen a downward trend of added sugar consumption since 2004. Current intake for men ages 19-30 is about 15% of calories, and for women ages 19-30 is about 16% of calories. Majority of added sugars come from snacks & sweets, soft drinks, and fruit drinks (not including 100% fruit juice). According to a NHANES survey from 2011-2014, adults age 18 and over consumed 7% of total calories from sugar-sweetened beverages on any given day.

 According to Sarah

I think often times it is easy to overlook just how much we are actually consuming. You can have a perfectly well-balanced diet that is interrupted by small things such as toppings, tastes, and additives. Along with what the data provides, I wanted to share some of my own experience and personal opinion on why people are not seeing the results they are looking for and where improvements could potentially be made.

  • Sauces and dressings: Salad dressing and sauces like ketchup, BBQ sauce, and mayonnaise are huge culprits of excess calories. Although you may think you are consuming a very healthy, moderate-calorie meal at first, the sauces and dressings can practically double your calorie consumption. Let’s put it this way… you have grilled chicken, and roasted potatoes, with a side salad for dinner. You add 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce to the chicken, 3 tablespoons of ketchup for the potatoes, and 1/4 cup of ranch dressing to the salad. The BBQ sauce adds about 100-120 calories, ketchup 50-60 calories, and the ranch adds around 280 calories. That is an extra ~460 caloriesto a meal that would have been extremely well-balanced before! Using sauces and dressings does not mean you have a bad diet, but it is a good idea to read nutrition labels and look at how much you are actually using each meal. Some low calorie options include vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, sugar free ketchup, hot sauce, siracha, salsa, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce.


  • Bites and Tastes: Sometimes it’s easy to forget the things we mindlessly eat throughout the day. Having a taste of your s/o’s dinner, or grabbing a few pieces of candy throughout the day can eventually add up if you are not careful. Let’s take this example… Your coworker’s bring in donuts to celebrate a staff birthday, so you break one in half and head back to your desk. While at your desk you snack on some candy that you got from a client. You get home and you’re kind of hungry so you grab a handful of potato chips before dinner. You go out to dinner with your family at night and finish your dinner along with having a few bites of someone else’s to taste. When you get home you start packing lunch for tomorrow and eat a spoonful of peanut butter. Although you did not have large portions of these snacky foods, they began to add up throughout the day on top of your already set meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). There is nothing wrong with eating chips, donuts, candy or peanut butter, however, if you are not careful, you can end up having enough calories for a whole other meal (that you did not intend on eating) just by eating multiple bites and tastes throughout the day.


  • Coffee additives: (Aka creamer/flavor syrups/milk/sugar/honey): I think fancy coffee drinks can make some of the largest contributions to excess calories. Let’s be honest, creamy sweet caramel flavored lattes are way better than black coffee (but hey, that’s just me). Some popular Starbucks drinks include Caramel macchiato (240 calories), White Chocolate Mocha (340 calories), Pumpkin Spiced Latte (310 calories), and Vanilla Latte (250 calories). In my own experience, the more I consume the sweetened coffee beverages, the harder it is to go back to my usual drink, plain coffee with a little cream and stevia. I try to limit my sugary Starbucks drinks so I don’t get on a roll with getting one every other day (which is so easy to do). Not only can limiting these drinks help cut back on calories and added sugars, it can also cut back on some spending (;


I hope you were able to take something away from today’s post and find areas you can improve your own diet!




*Reviewed and edited by Andy De Santis

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