How Much Food Do Americans Eat?

Updated on April 26, 2018

I bet almost half of you out there are eating some kind of food right now as you are reading this. In fact, I am munching on some salty tortilla chips while doing research for this article. Don't you just love food? In today's Americanized society food is cheap, easy to store & transport, and conveniently available to the consumer at anytime of the day. However, as you may know, it wasn't always like that. In this article, I will discuss food consumption rates in America as well as some of the eating patterns and trends that society has experienced as a whole. In addition to this, I will address some burning questions about food consumption over a person's lifetime.

Food Consumption Totals in America

Did you know that the average American consumes roughly 1,885lbs of food per year? That is nearly 1 ton of food annually per person living in the United States of America. With more than 321 million people eating every day we can extrapolate that the US food consumption rate is more than 302.5 million tons of food annually. What's more interesting is that for the average American this includes such things as 29lbs of french fries, 23lbs of pizza, 53 gallons of Soda, and 24 lbs of ice cream per year! That works out be an average of about 2,600 calories per day (as of 2015).


American's consumption of food has also changed significantly over the past 30 years. Evidence of this is clearly shown in some data obtained from the Economic Research Service (ERS) division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Researchers used food availability as a surrogate for consumption by adjusting for food loss such as waste and spoilage. When compared to large scale food consumption studies the data produces reasonably valid results. Did you know that in 1970 the average American consumed just 1667.4 lbs of food annually? That's also more than 200lbs less per year than what we eat now! The graph below shows the total annual per capita food consumption amounts in America from 1970 through 2015.


Some interesting conclusions can be deduced from this graph. Prior to the early 1980's, food consumption was relatively stable. After that, consumption began to significantly increase for the next 20 years. The maximum change occurred between 1984 and 1985 when consumption increased by more than 90lbs. After the turn of the 20th century, it appears that food consumption in America stopped increasing.. Since then, the annual amount of food eaten in America has remained relatively constant hovering around 1 ton. After 2009 we see a sharp drop off in the amount of food being consumed. This is likely due to a change in the research methods used to obtain this information.

The next graph shows the average daily amount of calories consumed for Americans since the 1970s.


When compared to the amount of food that we eat you see is a similar but slightly different trend in the data. This suggests that people's consumption habits are have changed over time as well. In other words, when comparing the charts we can conclude that there has been a shift in the types foods eaten leaning more towards calorie dense foods in recent times.

Changing Calorie Needs Throughout a Lifetime

Everyone knows that senior citizens require much less food than high school football players do. Each stage in life comes with a different set of caloric needs and therefore a different amount of food. There are a lot of factors that determine how much food a particular person needs. These can include age, gender, size, and lifestyle. The table below is a general guideline for calorie requirements for various life stages:

Estimated Average Daily Calorie Needs

Moderately Active
Child (Male & Female)
1,000 - 1,200
1,000 - 1,400
1,000 - 1,400
1,200 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,600
1,400 - 1,800
1,400 - 1,600
1,600 - 2,000
1,800 - 2,200
1,800 - 2,000
2,000 - 2,200
2,000 - 2,200
1,200 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,600
1,600 - 2,000
1,600 - 2,000
1,800 - 2,200
2,000 - 2,600
2,000 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,800
2,800 - 3,200
2,400 - 2,600
2,600 - 2,800
2,200 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,600
2,800 - 3,000
2,000 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,800

As you can see, the caloric needs of humans peaks in their 20s and begins to decline from there.

So, How Much Food Does an Average Person Consume in Their Lifetime?

Given all of the variables and the lack of detailed data available, determining average lifetime food consumption amounts will require a significant amount of estimating. Nonetheless, I am still curious to see just how much food is eaten during the lifetime of an American. My approach to this question will be to use the latest statistics available for daily calories and food volumes consumed and correlate this with the calories required during the various stages of life. The charts below summarizes the results of this analysis and shows some very surprising (and very average) numbers.


These numbers are pretty striking. From these charts we can definitely say that American people really do eat a lot of food! For example, it is estimated that an average American who is 80 years old would have consumed nearly 68 tons of food during their life. Moreover, that amount of food would have had roughly 67,000,000 calories in it. This really puts things in perspective.

References and Resources

Aubrey, Allison. The Average American Ate (Literally) A Ton This Year. National Public Radio. December 31, 2011. <>

Economic Research Service (ERS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System. May 2012. <>

The Credit Blog. Food Consumption in America. May 2012. <>

U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010" 7th Edition, December 2010 <>

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • profile image

      meme machine 

      5 months ago

      this is very nice

    • profile image


      5 months ago

      what does all of this mean!!!!!!!!!!!!

      and I am a girl

    • profile image

      Zoe Rocio Martinez 

      16 months ago

      Very Interesting, Gracias For The Info!!!

    • profile image

      dude with a name 

      20 months ago

      Nice article. it was well written and thought out.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I like this information.

      Job well done!

    • NetBlots profile image


      8 years ago from Melbourne

      This thread has now made me hungry!

      Thanks a lot :P haha

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

      Sondra Rochelle 

      8 years ago from USA

      And people wonder why we have so much obesity in America! This is one of the best hubs I've ever read. I'm bookmarking, voting up and sharing. You also just got a new follower. Brilliantly done, my friend!

    • katyzzz profile image


      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Love your diagrams and graphs and pictures and you did them all yourself. Well done and well said, I wonder WHY we are all eating too much, could it be the tempting food we are offered via the TV constantly stimulating our gastric juices, urging us to eat more.

      It is a national tragedy, particularly in the USA and also bad in Australia, with children often being the hapless victims, so sad for them often due to lack of parental control

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 

      8 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Holy .......!

      Ameri-CAN eat! Being English I'm sure the trend would be something similar as we also eat a lot of junk food and processed foods.

      That was a well put together hub with good information.

      Thanks for that.

      Take care. Rich


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