When putting together this year's Half Their Size issue, we started to wonder about the eating habits of the typical PEOPLE reader. And so we solicited 100 participants—73 women and 27 men from across the country—on people.com and asked them to write down every single thing they ate for four days. We then submitted their food journals to a team of dietitians (see box on page 72) and had New York City-based nutrition expert Maya Vadiveloo crunch the numbers. The results? Well, first the good news: In general, our participants don't overeat. Trouble is, they're moderating their calories in all the wrong ways, like skipping meals and cutting back on dairy in favor of binge drinking and chugging soda. For a closer look at their biggest mistakes, check out our findings—and the experts' advice for cleaning up your own eating act.
93% DO NOT GET ENOUGH WHOLE GRAINS
Darker grains like whole wheat pastas and breads provide more fiber, B vitamins and minerals, says dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix.
THE FRUIT PHOBIC
LATASHA BRAZIER, 33
Her Red Flag
She did not have a single serving of fruit in four days.
She's missing out on vital, low-calorie nutrients, says dietitian Ruth Frechman.
Will She Change?
Yes! "I was unaware I was going days without fruit," Brazier says. "I'm going to increase my intake."
THE COUPLE CRYING OUT FOR HELP
COLLEEN, 22, & JEFF DRISKELL, 27
Their Red Flag
You name it! They skimped on every key food group. "The closest Colleen came to fruit was a strawberry margarita!" Frechman says.
Neither of them is getting proper nutrition.
Will They Change?
Maybe. "I would love to make over our eating habits," Colleen says. "I'll eat whatever is in front of me," Jeff says, "so if she wants to eat healthier, I'll try."
AVERAGE NUMBER OF DAILY CALORIES CONSUMED BY FEMALE PARTICIPANTS
On average, a moderately active woman weighing 125 lbs. needs to consume 2,000 calories a day—about 800 fewer than the average male.
AVERAGE NUMBER OF DAILY CALORIES CONSUMED BY MALE PARTICIPANTS
Yes, men get to eat more: On average, a moderately active 175-lb. male needs 2,800 calories a day. They also need more daily fiber: 38 grams vs. 25 for women.
92% DO NOT GET ENOUGH VEGETABLES
"You really can't overdo veggies," says dietitian Melinda Johnson, but you should aim for at least three to five servings daily. An easy way to eat more vegetables: Add a side salad to one of your meals.
86% DO NOT GET ENOUGH FRUITS
Snack on whole fruit and reach for it instead of juice to get the advised two to four daily servings, says dietitian Tara Gidus.
THE BINGE DRINKER
LAURYN SCHOTHORST, 25
Her Red Flag
In one night she guzzled 64 oz. of sangria!
"Binge drinking can cause weight gain and other health risks," says Tara Gidus. "She should limit to one drink a day."
Will She Change?
"Knowing I drank 1,000 calories in one night? Yikes!" Schothorst says. "I'll think twice before I indulge again."
PARTICIPANTS WHO EAT MORE OFTEN CONSUME FEWER CALORIES OVERALL
Those who ate two meals daily consumed 2,302 calories, while those who ate six meals daily consumed just 1,718 calories.
"Don't go several hours between meals," says dietitian Elisa Zied. "Letting your tank hit empty sets you up to overindulge at your next meal."
ATE NO FISH DURING THE 4-DAY SURVEY
"Everyone needs to consume fatty fish—like salmon, tuna, trout or herring—two or more times a week," says Frechman, adding that these fish types are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
THE SODA ADDICT
CHRIS WELLS, 26
His Red Flag
He downed 19 cans of soda in four days.
"Excess soda means excess calories and sugar, which can lead to weight gain," explains dietitian Lona Sandon.
Will He Change?
Sort of. "I doubt I'll narrow it down to one a day," Wells says, "but I'll definitely reduce."
THE DAIRY AVOIDER
VIVIAN KUO, 31
Her Red Flag
Three daily calcium servings are advised; she had less than one.
"Nutrients in dairy help form strong bones," says dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of The Flexitarian Diet.
Will She Change?
Yes! "I never thought about my calcium intake before," says Kuo. "I've gotten back to purchasing milk."
ON AVERAGE, ADDED TO THEIR DAILY TOTAL PER RESTAURANT MEAL
Restaurant meals can be "loaded with calories, fat and sodium," says Zied. "Limit fast food to no more than one meal per week, or every few weeks."
95% DO NOT GET ENOUGH DAIRY
Aim for three servings a day of low-fat dairy (like skim milk) "to get vital calcium and vitamin D," says Zied, author of Feed Your Family Right!
WHO DID THE ANALYSIS
The following dietitians reviewed the food diaries of our survey participants. Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LD, Chicago, Ruth Frechman, MA, RD, Los Angeles, Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, N.Y.C., Tara Gidus, MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, Orlando, Angela Ginn-Meadow, RD, LDN, CDE, Baltimore, Ximena Jimenez, MS, RD, LD, Miami, Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, Phoenix, Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, LD, Dallas, Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, N.Y.C., Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, New York
SEE WHAT SCORED WITH OUR DIETITIANS—AND WHAT DIDN'T
3,565 Total Calories
TOO MANY CALORIES!
MICHAEL SIR LOUIS, 32
1 chocolate cream-filled doughnut, 8 oz. coffee
3 hot dogs, 1 2-oz. bag of Cheetos, 1 chocolate doughnut
1 lb. crab legs with butter, 4 pieces of bruschetta, 1 bowl of salad, 2 bottles Sam Adams light beer
3.5 oz. buttered popcorn
EXPERT SAYS: "His sodium is off the charts from the processed food," says Zied, adding that, despite the calories, "his diet is nutrient-poor." "I'm on the Michael Phelps diet, without the swimming," jokes Sir Louis. "To curb my appetite, I'm going to attempt to eat slower."
1,247 Total Calories
TOO FEW CALORIES!
Egg white omelet with veggies and cheese, 1 wheat English muffin with jam, 2/3 cup roasted potatoes, 1 14-oz. cup of coffee with Half & Half
8 pretzels with hummus
1 chicken sausage link, corn on the cob, Greek salad
1 Diet Coke
EXPERT SAYS: "She's conscious of making healthy choices but needs more nutrient-dense foods," says Johnson. Nido, who lost 45 lbs. a few years ago, says she is now "a very careful eater. But I'll try to incorporate a few hundred more calories into my daily diet."
1,775 average calories per day
HOLLY DORO, 35: A READER WHO GOT IT RIGHT!
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
EXPERT SAYS: "Overall, her diet is healthy, with a good intake of carbs, fat and protein in relationship to calories," says dietitian Keri M. Gans. Says Doro, 35, who plans meals ahead and avoids processed foods: "I want to set a good example for my three children."
- With reporting by Shreya Baxi,
- Jesse Curti.