What We Think vs. What We Do: America’s Nutrition Evolution (Infographic)

One of the biggest sectors that families spend money on is groceries and food. Something I never used to think about and I have lately been giving a little more consideration is the fact that there may be more of a correlation than we’d really like to think between nutrition and spending on healthcare costs. Eating healthy is important, and I think it’s interesting to take note of the fact that as a country, we’ve been on a collective journey of figuring out what that looks like for quite some time. As the official story of what constitutes a healthy balanced diet has changed, so has our standard American diet and the statistics about the incidence of preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease have climbed. I think it’s important to save money on your food, and to not overindulge by eating fast food for the sake of cheapness or convenience. Your health and the food you eat and your family eats are worth investing in—balance frugality with quality and conscientious choices. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

Our Infographic takes a look at some of the statistics about preventable diseases over the last few decades in the US, and a history of official food guides over time. It ends with some actionable pieces of advice for folks who find themselves in a less healthy state than they’d like or who simply want to maintain as healthy of a diet as they can. I thought it was very informative. I hope you find it helpful.

Nutrition infographic


  1. Based on my experience, these are the healthiest of all:
    1. Fruits (fresh not frozen)
    2. Vegetables (fresh not frozen)
    3. Fish (with scales, no crabs, no lobsters, no shells)
    4. Whole wheat bread (the darker the healthier but don’t misunderstand this with chocolate bread)
    5. Water (pure water, not with bubbles or flavoring)

    If people just eat the ones above, there will be lesser health problems.
    6. Move your body (BONUS)

  2. Frugal Dad,

    I love your site! I can’t imagine how long it takes you to come up with these AWESOME graphics. I have used them on my site twice already in two weeks. Keep it up and stay FRUGAL!


  3. At first, I really wasn’t pleased with these infographics and thought the website was drifting away from its core functions. But now I applaud Frugaldad for trying something new and heading in a new direction. Reading these charts and seeing how they can apply to our personal finances takes critical thought, which we probably don’t do enough of. Great job for being brave and stepping out in a new direction. I hope it enables a wider platform to be reached and informed.

  4. I watched an interesting documentary on Netflix the other day called Fat Head. It certainly challenged some of my previous beliefs about food and proper diet and did what any good documentary should do- made me want to look into it more. I haven’t finished deciding what I think about it all but it presented some very good ‘food for thought’. My husband had a bit of trouble getting past his tone in the beginning but once we kind of got used to it/ got past it we really enjoyed the documentary.

  5. It’s pretty interesting to see how the guidelines have changed over the years, and some of these statistics are pretty alarming!

    1 in 3 people with diabetes!

    I guess I’ve never even considered following the national guideline really. It always seemed like just another subject taught in school (usually covered in 5 minutes), and I never had a reason to follow it.

  6. I like your infographics, for visual learners like me, it helps make your point clearer. I have read each of them and used two of them on my blog.
    Our food trend is alarming and the statistics really worrisome. I have to admit that I do not seriously take care of my health, but I hear all this talk and its time to make a huge positive change.

  7. Nice infographic. I’m curious, in the past you had mentioned losing a lot of weight by switching to a primal diet. Are you still grain free?

    • No Jennifer, I’m not. I did really well on Primal, but have since added back in whole grains – mostly in the form of whole wheat bread on my daily lunch sandwich or toast in the morning. I wound up losing nearly 60 pounds and have stayed at this weight for a couple months since adding back in grains. I will probably use Primal again here soon to cut a bit more weight, but it isn’t something I can sustain forever.

  8. The less processed the better. We have weaned our kids off of the McD’s/BK places, when we’re out for a day we’ll pack a lunchbox with fruit/cheese sticks/granola bars/water and if we know we will need lunch we’ll pack sandwiches as well. Saves time/money and is much more healthful.

  9. It is exceptionally hard to compete with the billions poured into marketing garbage food to children. Presidential task forces can’t solve it. There’s no massive carrot lobby to fight the corruption. Maybe once Gen Y starts getting the bill for the Boomers’ healthcare needs, we’ll wake up. More likely, we’ll work more hours to pay the bill, and buy our kids McDonald’s to numb them to our helicopter parenting…

  10. May I ask who does your infographics? 1. They are really well done. 2. I have had many done for some various websites. My only thought is that I don’t know how “frugal” these things are. 🙂 The ones I had done were pretty expensive.

  11. Awesome Infographic Jason! I always think that using an infographic rather than paragraphs of text makes it a lot more enjoyable for the reader. Plus, they’re much more likely to share it with their friends!

    Keep it Frugal!


  12. I have some anecdotal observations from my own life. I live in a rural area, and grocery store choices are limited, unless I want to drive nearly 30 miles 1 way to a larger store. I have a job, but my wages have remained flat while all other costs have gone up, so my disposable income has steadily dropped over the last few years.

    Food prices on many items have more than doubled over the past year or so.

    There is a problem with people eating low quality food, but when you only have a limited amount of money to buy food, what real options do you have? Haddock is $9.99/lb. Red onions $1.99/lb. I paid 94 cents for 1 apple, because they are also $1.99/lb. Oranges are $1 each. One red pepper is $2. I wanted red potatoes, but at $5.99 for a 5 lb bag, I didn’t buy them. A small head of cauliflower is $3.99.

    On the other hand, you can go to the frozen food section, and get big portions of junky On Cor items for a relatively low price, but it’s loaded with sodium and all sorts of fillers.

    And there’s the problem. It’s a matter of economics for many families. Spend a lot of money on a little bit of high quality food, or spend not so much money on a greater volume of low quality food.

  13. I have been using a website called fitday.com to track my food, weight, exercise, etc. Just tried the myplate for first time. At first glance, it seems like fitday lists more food choices for tracking what you eat. Also has graphs for showing different things, for those who like that. But both seemed to give similar results based on entering same foods eaten today. Will try them both for a while and see which I like better. Would think either would be a good way to track your results.

    As far as what I am eating. Trying to cut back on simple carbs, processed and fast foods, sodas, etc. Eating more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc. I’ll be glad when spring arrives and can get the garden going again. And can ride my bike more.

    Each of us is different. So you may need to experiment a little to well what works best for you.

  14. Do you think America will ever, in the future, adopt the eastern diet? What do you think would it take for America to get back to a healthier diet? I’m no expert on economics and politics but my prediction is that it is going to get so bad that the government will begin taxing fast food places hardcore. What do you guys think?

  15. This infographic should be retitled, “A History of USDA Lobbying”. Is it not obvious that in the last century the drive toward grains and seed oils, and away from meat and vegetables is largely the result of successful lobbying for government subsidy? Is it at all curious that this transition has coincided with an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases?

    Ask the Inuit how unhealthy it is to get 95% of your food from animal meat and fat. Or the tribes of Papua New Guinea who get almost all of their food from sweet potatoes. So much for that bogus guide of “moderation”.

  16. I think most people were confused when they went from pyramid to wedge and portion control has always been a problem for Americans. When you put that with nutritionist stating we should have 6 small meals a day you get a confused lot that doesn’t understand why they keep gaining weight.

  17. I think the main reason for the increase in obesity is the US is the fast paced life. We love fast food and TV dinners because they take very little time to prepare but we do not realize or do not care that those same meals are very unhealthy and causing obesity and other preventable diseases. We have to find a balance between getting what we want fast and eating healthy, it is our only chance at reversing this obesity wave.

  18. Variety * Variety * Variety.. I’m 50 years old and they keep changing what is right or not right.

    I buy mainly organic and all natural foods; and the prices are getting lower with more people avoiding harmful ingredients to our food.

    But variety and listening to what your body needs.. sometime your body is telling you to consume more of something.. and I listen. i’m in perfect health and weight at 50 year old…!!

    And to me two cups of organic coffee a day is healthy; there is always debates on coffee for years.. (no sugar is needed with good coffee; and just organic skim milk).. !!

    I love your blog; great graphics too..