Mindless eating

Almost 90 percent of Americans have no clue how many calories they should eat per day. Calories consistently rank toward the bottom of consumer eating priorities. According to a Food Marketing Institute study in 2002, only 13 percent said they were concerned about calories. Annual per-person meat consumption rose by 57 pounds and cheese intake quadrupled from 1950 to 2000.

Do not necessarily count on your doctor to dispense authoritative nutrition advice. Diet and nutrition education is given short shrift in medical school. During the 2008-09 academic year, only 27 percent of medical schools met the 25-hour classroom minimum for the topic set by the National Academy of Sciences. About 38 percent of schools met the standard four years earlier, meaning the trend is going in the wrong direction. The doctors most likely to know much about nutrition have made a personal commitment to follow a healthy lifestyle themselves.

Americans usually believe they exert a high level of personal control over their health habits. A survey by Foodminds showed otherwise. A surprising 38 percent said others were responsible for what they put in their mouths. About 14 percent blamed food companies, 12 percent pointed to the government, 9 percent said the health-care system was somehow responsible and 3 percent blamed the educational system.

Nearly 90 percent of Americans said they were eating a healthy diet, according to a Consumer Reports telephone survey in November 2010.

What did they eat? Only 30 percent said they eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, 43 percent drank at least one sugared drink daily and only about half attempted to limit consumption of sweets and dietary fat.

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