Skip to content


    Attention All WebMD Community Members:

    These message boards are closed to posting. Please head on over to our new WebMD Message Boards to check out and participate in the great conversations taking place:

    Your new WebMD Message Boards are now open!

    Making the move is as easy as 1-2-3.

    1. Head over to this page:

    2. Choose the tag from the drop-down menu that clicks most with you (and add it to any posts you create so others can easily find and sort through posts)

    3. Start posting

    Have questions? Email us anytime at [email protected]

    Top 20 sources of Calories for Americans
    Elaine Magee, MPH, RD posted:
    I always like to see which foods contribute the most sugar or saturated fat or sodium because that helps shed light on where we can make changes to have the greatest impact.

    The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 have quite a few of these informative charts. One of my favorites is the figure in Chapter 2 on page 12 that shows the top 25 sources of calories for Americans. It might surprise you.

    Take a look for yourself but here are the top 20 sources of calories:

    #1 Grain-based desserts
    #2 Breads
    #3 Chicken (I'm guessing this isn't all "grilled" chicken
    #4 Soft drinks
    #5 pizza
    #6 ALcoholic beverages
    #7 Pasta
    #8 tortillas, burritos, tacos
    #9 beef
    #10 diary desserts
    #11 potato/corn chips
    #12 burger
    #13 reduced fat milk
    #14 cheese
    #15 cold cereals
    #16 pork
    #17 fried potatoes
    #18 candy
    #19 nuts & seeds
    #20 eggs & egg mixed dishes

    What did YOU think would be the top three calorie contributors?
    Was this Helpful?
    13 of 16 found this helpful
    evergreen62 responded:
    So essentially, #1 cake, #4 pop, & #10 ice cream make the Top 10 for our source of calories in our western diet. Wow. Would be interesting to see how that compares to those in rural Asia.
    Elaine Magee, MPH, RD replied to evergreen62's response:
    Exactly! I have a feeling #1 is more than cake know how much America loves our cookies! Chocolate chip cookies are one of the top 3 comfort foods, according to many surveys.

    Soda is the simplest t I think to eliminate for many. And Alcohol is easy for some of us. (both liquids)
    Elizabeth_WebMD_Staff responded:
    I wonder if portion sizes were taken into consideration. For instance sodas, they just keep getting bigger and bigger.

    Eric, it would be interesting to see the stats from other countries.
    To eat is a necessity, to eat intelligently is an art. La Rochefoucauld
    jis4judy responded:
    My top 3 would be
    1, baked sweets cake cookies cheesecake pies sweet breads
    2 Icecream
    3 candy

    Hugs Judy:)
    erice_ma responded:
    It might be interesting to compare that list to the list of foods most associated gaining the most weight/least weight per the June 2011 NEJM report:

    Correlated with most weight gained:
    1) potato chips. Part of #11 on this list. I suspect "mindless snacking" is both at the root of these being high on the calories list and the association with weight gain.

    2) potatoes. Partially represented by #17 on this list. From the earlier report, I doubt it is the potatoes per se, but what is added to them/how they are prepared.

    3) sugar-sweetened beverages. #4 on this list. No surprise.

    4) unprocessed red meats. #9, #12 and ?#16 on this list. Again, I don't think it's the food that is the issue, but as this list confirms, the quantity.

    5) processed meats. Not obviously on this list, but probably in #9, #12, #16, and probably #3.

    Interesting that "grain based deserts" (cakes, cookies, donuts, ....) are NOT on that list.

    Correlated with LEAST weight gained:
    5) vegetables. Not on this list. No surprise for a low calorie item.

    4) whole grains. Probably partially buried in this list as #2, #7, #8, #15. But we know the majority of each of those are non-whole grain options.

    3) fruits. Not on this list. No surprise.

    2) nuts. #19 on this list.

    1) yogurt. Probably not on this list unless included in #13.
    icat1 responded:
    what are the top 20 low cal (low sodium) foods we can focus on...besides water?
    Elizabeth_WebMD_Staff replied to icat1's response:
    Hi icat1 - Great Question!

    I'll start off with a few and others can chime in -

    1. Fresh fruits.
    2. Fresh vegetables.
    3. Use orange or pineapple juices instead of bottled marinades.
    4. Fresh herbs for seasoning. Peppers vs salt.
    ~To eat is a necessity, to eat intelligently is an art.~ La Rochefoucauld
    rohvannyn replied to Elizabeth_WebMD_Staff's response:
    Unsalted nuts. For those who are addicted to salted nuts, I suggest either putting half salted with half unsalted and increasing the ratio, or adding just a little of your own salt.

    Salsa. Lots of flavor, not always a lot of salt. You can make your own too.
    An_244772 responded:
    How does chicken carry more calories than red meat??
    Tomato05 replied to An_244772's response:
    It depends on what you do with the chicken - if you don't remove the skin, or fry it, especially if you cover it in a layer of crumbs, or add other high-fat ingredients, it can be high-calorie.

    Half a simple, grilled chicken breast on the other hand will not add hundreds of calories.
    BlissfulWriter responded:
    Looks to me like the American diet has too many calories from carbs, and not enough calories from healthy fats.
    erice_ma replied to An_244772's response:
    "How does chicken carry more calories than red meat?"

    Note, that's not what the list above says. The list is of "which foods provide the most calories in the diet." In total, not per serving. Americans eat chicken more often than they eat red meat. Consequently, the total calories in the diet from chicken is higher than the less frequently consumed red meat.

    Helpful Tips

    Crockpot cooking for oatmeal
    I have also seen recipes that cook oatmeal in the crockpot More
    Was this Helpful?
    5 of 6 found this helpful

    Expert Blog

    Healthy Recipe Doctor - Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

    Dietician Elaine Magee has the secret recipe for creating healthy meals that are guaranteed to please any condition or diet...Read More

    Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

    FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.