REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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.

Average daily consumption, in ounces, in 1971. (Nathan Yau/FlowingData)

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.

Average daily consumption, in ounces, in 2013. (Nathan Yau/FlowingData)

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.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of police officers sealing off trash bins prior to the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo in 2015.
    Life

    Carefully, Japan Reconsiders the Trash Can

    The near-absence of public garbage bins in cities like Tokyo is both a security measure and a reflection of a cultural aversion to littering.

  2. An illustration of the Memorial Day flood in Ellicott City, Maryland.
    Environment

    In a Town Shaped by Water, the River Is Winning

    Storms supercharged by climate change pose a dire threat to river towns. After two catastrophic floods, tiny Ellicott City faces a critical decision: Rebuild, or retreat?

  3. Cars sit in a crosswalk.
    Transportation

    What if More People Could Issue Parking Tickets?

    Washington, D.C., considers training a group of residents to give tickets for some parking violations. Would it make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists?

  4. A line of stores in Westport, Connecticut
    Equity

    Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing

    In southwest Connecticut, the gap between rich and poor is wider than anywhere else in the country. Invisible walls created by local zoning boards and the state government block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.

  5. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.