Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
Kale just recently landed a prime spot at the table.
What’s for dinner? The answer’s changed a lot since 1970. You can survey the shifts in a matter of seconds now that Nathan Yau of FlowingData has created a viz that tracks Americans’ daily intakes over four decades.
Using data from the USDA, Yau built an interactive that charts the average daily consumption, per person, of various kinds of meats, vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, and fat sources. As the viz chugs along, readers get an overview of what waned in popularity and what surged ahead. (Apples, for instance, remain the go-to fruit, but chicken blew past beef as the meat of choice.) Though Yau doesn’t delve into causality, some upticks and tumbles seem likely to map on to broader cultural shifts.
Take, for example, wheat flour. Overall consumption has fallen from a high point in 2000, and it’s tempting to wonder whether that decline is associated with the popularity of gluten-free diets. In a recent piece for The Atlantic, James Hamblin reported that, in a recent global survey, nearly 1 in 3 Millennials indicated that “gluten-free” was “a very important characteristic” in their food choices—even if they hadn’t been diagnosed with Celiac disease.
And, a reminder not to discount the underdog: Leafy greens trailed in the veggie category before sprinting to second place, behind potatoes, in the early 2000s. They’ve continued to cling to the spot, which is probably not so surprising for anyone who’s seen a fancy juice spot—or three—pop up in recent years. Play with the interactive here.