The American Diet by Income


The guidelines for healthy eating are constantly changing: less than 10 percent of daily calories should be from added sugar, consume more vegetables and less meat – the list goes on. How can we keep up? It seems that certain groups of Americans are simply unable to; namely, those who are considered low-income. According to an article from Stat, low-income is less than $30,000 a year for a family of four. These families are falling significantly behind high-income families, who make more than $69,000 a year, when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet.

The Ideal Diet

According to the American Heart Association, the ideal diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts. An intermediate diet is at least 80 percent of the recommended servings of these foods, while two-fifths or less is considered poor. Eating an abundance of saturated fats, sugar, salt and processed meat is not within the AHA guidelines. The stats:

  • High-income Americans are more likely to eat in the intermediate range
  • The diet of low-income Americans tends to be poor to intermediate
  • Approximately 62 percent of high-income Americans are in the intermediate range
  • Approximately 38 percent of low-income Americans are in the intermediate range

However, only two percent of the population achieve the ideal AHA diet.

The Differences by Food Group

High-income Americans eat better across the board as compared to those of low-income, but the break down by food is rather interesting:

  • Fruits: High-income Americans have increased their fruit intake by two servings, while low-income Americans haven’t changed.
  • Vegetables: We all need to be eating more vegetables, but the income discrepancy does show that high-income Americans do eat slightly more than low-income.
  • Whole Grains: Both high-income and low-income Americans are eating more whole grains, but those of low-income haven’t stopped consuming white bread and cornflakes like those of high-income.
  • Nuts: Similarly to fruit intake, high-income Americans are eating two more servings of nuts and seeds than they were 10 years ago; no change for those of low-income.
  • Sugary Drinks: Across the board, less people are drinking soda and other artificially sweetened beverages. However, high-income Americans consume less overall.

Can The Pattern Change?

It is unclear whether or not the income gap between the rich and poor will continue to have an impact on healthy eating habits in the future. If we can debunk the misconception that healthy foods are expensive, it’s a step in the right direction! Although health food stores do sell organic products at high prices, many of those same foods are available at the local grocery store. Rather than going completely organic, gluten-free and vegan, buy more fresh produce and reduce processed or fast foods. A quick tip? Walk the perimeter of the grocery store before going down the aisles, where the unhealthy items tend to be.

A healthy lifestyle begins with better eating habits, but is sustained with physical activity! Explore your  gym membership options with us today.