Some Good News About Our Eating Habits

Finally, some good news to shake off the whole "America eats too much" stereotype — at least a little bit. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service has shown that Americans are getting healthier when it comes to their eating habits, including fewer calories, more fiber, and less cholesterol. Plus, the calories that are eaten tend to be of the better kind: Fewer are coming from fats, especially the particularly unhealthy ones like saturated fat.

The White House believes this change is evidence that food reforms begun in 2009 are having a profound effect.

"These are not huge shifts, but they are positive ones," said obesity expert Kelly Brownell. "We still have huge problems with obesity — it's just a smaller degree of terrible."

Working-age Americans have cut roughly 110 calories between 2009 and 2010, which followed the drop of 78 calories per day between 2005 and 2010 — before the Obama administration's reforms began. There was also a 3.3 percent reduction in total fat; 5.9 percent drop in saturated fat; and a 7.9 percent fall in intake of cholesterol. But what went up were the 1.2 grams of fiber added to meals per day.

Some believe the change in habits has to do with the greater reach of nutritional information. Now, around 42 percent of working-age adults use nutritional info when feeding themselves, and 76 percent of adults report using it in restaurants. Plus, the use of smartphone apps tracking nutrition have also been on the rise.

And there's been a drop in eating out, evidenced by a 12.9 percent drop in related spending, which has resulted in a 20 percent improvement in "diet quality." Part of this could be down to the recession: As America's wallets were hit, people found that the humble kitchen meals were the most cost-friendly option.

Other people attribute the changes to better education overall. "When individuals believe that their actions directly affect their body weight, they might be more inclined to make healthier food choices," said study author Jessica Todd.

This year, the USDA is planning to come out with a new kind of food label, in hopes that a revamp will make it more consumer-friendly.

"We have made significant progress, but our work is not done," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack noted. "We will continue to invest in critical programs that expand the availability of healthy, safe, affordable food for all Americans."