New findings from National Geographic's The Future of Food project reveal to what extent the typical daily diets across the world differ. Their interactive site draws from data collected by the United Nations on food consumption in 22 countries between the years 1961 and 2011. The data reveals how larger factors — like a country's prominent cultural practices or its economy — play into the food a nation's citizens consume.
To get the obvious out of the way, yes, the U.S. takes the literal cake for being the country with the highest average daily caloric intake; we come in at a sizable 3,641 calories, on average. Other nations who exceeded the 3,000-calories-a-day mark include Germany, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and China, all of which were in the top ten countries with the highest GDPs last year. Meanwhile, Somalia, whose economic data does not even rank on the GDP list linked above, sees its citizens consuming an average of 1,695 calories a day.
National Geographic also provides a comprehensive nutritional breakdown for each country. Once again proving what we already knew — an American diet is more than one-third fats and sugars, with an unhealthy 37% of all calories consumed coming from this food group. India consumed the lowest amount of meat out of every country at just 1%; in one extreme example, the entire city of Palitana has banned the slaughter of animals for meat. Libya and North Korea were close behind at 3% and 5% for meat consumption, respectively.
So, is there a right or a wrong? Which nation should we turn to for the next French woman's diet-esque fad? Generally, a moderately active female in her 20s to 30s should aim to consume between 2,000 to 2,200 calories a day. However, though what is healthy in terms of daily calorie intake varies with your age, gender, and activity level, how those calories should be distributed is a bit more consistent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture illustrates a healthy diet with a plate-by-plate diagram, which the Centers for Disease Control uses and expands upon, showing exactly what falls into each food group, as defined by the USDA (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods).
With their higher rates of produce intake, using China and Cuba (at 15% and 16%, respectively) as food-consumption models could be a good springboard to start an overhaul of your eating habits. But, regardless of your place of origin or whatever culinary national identity you're hoping to emulate, make sure your diet fits your needs and yourself.