"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What the U.S. Government Thinks You Should Eat

I hear a lot of complaining about the Standard American Diet, but I don't know of anyone who's ever tried to meet all the government standards and only a few dieticians who actually understand them. Here's a 2000 calorie diet that meets all the US RDAs (2010) and the USDA Dietary Guidelines (2010); also the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet) and is under $40 per week and contains things found in standard grocery stores. How does your diet compare?


Three 8-oz. glasses of skim milk (249 cal, 60 cents)


Apple, red, medium (82 cal, 29 cents, Braeburn - on sale)
Banana, 7-8" (105 cal. 15 cents)
4 oz. grape juice, from frozen concentrate (76 cal., 22 cents)
4 oz. orange juice, from frozen concentrate (59 cal., 19 cents)

Meat, Fish, Poultry, Nuts, Legumes, Eggs

1/2 oz. almonds (88 cal, 20 cents, snack foods)
1/4 oz. walnuts (46 cal., 10 cents, baking needs)
1/4 oz. sunflower seeds (40 cal, 4 cents, from bulk)
1/4 egg (i.e., one egg every 4 days) (18 cal, 4 cents)
1/8 c. raw red lentils (1/3 c. cooked) (83 cal, 11 cents, bulk)
1.5 oz. canned wild-caught pink salmon (59 cal., 28 cents)
1.5 oz. ground beef (93% lean) (91 cal, 29 cents)
1.5 oz. ground turkey (93% lean) (57 cal, 26 cents)
[fish, poultry and meat are 2 servings per week each of 4 oz. raw, 3.5 oz (100g) cooked]


1/2c. cooked spinach (21 cal, 35 cents, frozen)
1/2c. cooked broccoli (24 cal, 34 cents, frozen)
1/2 baked sweet potato (2" diameter, 5" long) (51 cal, 19 cents)
1/2c chopped raw (yellow) onion (32 cal. 27 cents)
1/4 avocado (80 cal, 30 cents)
1/2 c. raw white mushrooms (21 cal, 43 cents, canned)
1/2c. chopped red bell pepper (1/3 of 2.5" diameter) (12 cal., 11 cents, sale)


1 oz. (1/3 c raw, 1 c cooked) oatmeal (110 cal, 6 cents, bulk)
1/4 c. raw pearled barley (174 cal., 18 cents, Quaker, soup aisle)
1/3 c. dry (1 c cooked) brown rice (228 cal, 16 cents, ethnic foods)
1/2 c yellow corn (67 cal, 27 cents, frozen)


1/4 tsp. table salt (0 cal., 0 cents)
1 tablespoon safflower oil (120 cal, 9.1 cents)


1987 calories, 298 g carbohydrates, 41 g fiber, 55g total fat (25% calories from fat), 1.7 g omega-3 fats, 20.1 g omega-6 fats, 8.6g saturated fat, 0.4 g trans fat, 99 g protein (20% calories from protein), 1.8 mg vitamin B-1, 7 micrograms vitamin B-12, 3.1 mg B-2, 25.5 mg B-3, 3.1 mg B-6, 561 micrograms folate, (biotin and pantothenate above RDA), 5478 IU vitamin A, 200 mg vitamin C, 664 IU vitamin D, 18.4 mg vitamin E, 578 micrograms vitamin K (extremely high, due to spinach, but no toxicity concern), 1551 mg calcium (high - substituting other green leafy vegetable for spinach and other cruciferous vegetable for broccoli would correct this), 2.4 mg copper, 15.3 mg iron, 624 mg magnesium, 7.8 mg manganese, 2233 mg phosphorus, 5104 mg potassium, 118 micrograms selenium, 1283 mg. sodium, 14.7 mg zinc, (above RDA for iodine)


wildknits said...

Where did you find canned salmon that cheap?? Or do I just need to so some price checking?

Once again you are posting a blog that I would find very useful in my work life. Mind if I print this off and use it when discussing low-cost, healthful eating with patients?

SteveQ said...

Cub store brand "Everyday Essentials" was the salmon ($2.79 per can, if I remember); BumbleBee was even cheaper, but farmed.

Sure, use it - I don't publish things to keep them secret!

Olga King said...


SteveQ said...

I'm still awaiting comments on how cheap food is in general here (Piccola PineCone, you out there?) and how hard it would be to make interesting recipes from these ingredients,plus how it's all gentically-modified and full of toxins and allergenic. I'm thinking all the numbers stunned people!

wildknits said...

I did print it out today and showed it to a co-worker - her first complaint was about the frozen vegetables, second was wondering about how to knock the totally calorie count to 1500.

I would have to substitute for some of the nuts (but am used to that). May show it to the head chef in the household to see what he could concoct from the ingredient list.

I think it is a good base to build from - showing folks that eating healthfully does NOT have to be expensive.

SteveQ said...

1000 calories: 1 can of sardines, 1 cup spinach, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1.5 cups tofu, 1.5 cups portobello mushrooms, 1 cup lentils, 1 cup bell pepper (this is at least close to nutritionally complete)


The lower the calorie count, the weirder and more expensive the food.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Here's your comment on how cheap...some parts of the country are a little more expensive than that. Still your point is well-taken.

My opinion is this: We are exposed to so many toxins in the air, in water, in the cleaning products we use, and in life in general, that trying to eliminate toxins and genetically modified substances from what you put in your GI tract is really not going to make all that much difference.

That said, I prefer real food to anything in a brightly colored package. I'm willing to pay more for real food, too, but this post shows that with a little planning, you can eat real stuff for a lot less $$.

I think where a lot of us get tripped up is in the planning of meals and shopping for ingredients. We often don't take the time to do it.