The Standard American Diet: One Size Does Not Fit All
In the last twenty years, the obesity rate in America has reached an alarming, life threatening level with one-third of adults and seventeen percent of children falling into the obesity category (Ogden, 2012), and at the same time, three out of the top ten nonfiction Best-Sellers are about diet and nutrition (Winston-Salem Journal, 2013). It would seem that with a nation so inclined to be obsessed with health and nutrition, Americans would not be the leader in obesity rates. So, why is it the nation’s girth continues to expand, even with government health authorities outlining recommendations for a balanced dietary guide, and supporting the farming industry with food subsidies; shouldn’t these measures be designed to control the rate of obesity in this country? Instead, we find the standard American diet is unhealthy, unsustainable, and based in consumerism science, guided by a single set of government dietary recommendations, and a subsidized food industry, which has led the nation to an obesity epidemic; The obesity epidemic could be resolved if the government subsidized healthier foods and recognized that Americans are individuals with unique dietary needs that cannot be met with a one size fits all mentality.
In America today, the government recommends a single source for nutritional and dietary guidelines to be applied equally to all Americans without regard to ethnicity, cultural or social-economic status as a one-size fits all dietary plan. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) creates and issues the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years and is considered to be the cornerstone of information for the nutritional policies and education of the American population (USDA and HHS, 2011). The ninety-one pages of guidelines are recommended for all Americans over the age of 2, including the population at risk for chronic disease; but the actual documentation is developed for the use by healthcare professionals, nutritionists, educators, and policymakers (USDA and HHS, 2011, p. 2). The overall composition of the governmental dietary recommendations leaves the implied audience, the American people, out of the very guidelines that could lead them to a healthier lifestyle. While the dietary guidelines are very detailed and informational, they are not aimed to be user-friendly and tend to be a bit repetitive in the general theme of reduce caloric consumption, buy healthier foods, reduce sugar, salt, and fat intake and increase physical activity. These are all fine points, and would reduce the ever growing waistline in America; however, the information is lost in translation to the average consumer, as it is written at a scientific and academic level. The basic presentation of material does not apply to the general population and still leaves them mystified as to how to reduce the calories, or which sugars to avoid, how to read nutritional labels, and what food groups to add or reduce to create a balanced diet, thereby leaving a gapping void in dietary food education at the consumer level.
In chapter six, the USDA and HHS attempts to recognize that dietary eating habits can be influenced by socio-economic and ethic variables the recommendations outlined are “interventions should extend well beyond providing traditional education to individuals and families about healthy choices, and should help build skills, reshape the environment, and re-establish social norms to facilitate individuals’ healthy choices” (USDA and HHS, 2011, p. 57). These recommendations imply the dietary guidelines should not be changed or modified to fit the individual, but the individual should change to meet the guidelines without regard to ethnicity or socio-economic status, proving the governments’ one size fits all mentality and disregard of individual and…