50 Years Of Eating Patterns Around The World

How much meat, fat, sugar, vegetables, and grain do we eat compared to the rest of the world? You might not want to know.

In Hong Kong, a third of what citizens eat is meat. Across China, half the total intake is fruits and vegetables. In North Korea, almost two-thirds of the diet is grains–and North Koreans eat only 1,318 calories a day, or roughly a meal’s worth of what we eat in the U.S.


This is all information you can explore in National Geographic‘s incredible interactive data visualization, What The World Eats, designed by Fathom using information from the global food statistics organization FAOSTAT. At first glance it’s a simple collection of donut charts, breaking down daily diets in countries across the world. But you can click into any piece of information for a deeper dive. Tap on Russia, and you zoom into Russians’ typical diet. Hover over the dairy and eggs consumed, and you’ll see that same information highlighted for every other country on the page. Click into Russia’s dairy and eggs, and you’ll get very specific information, seeing that most Russians drink about 10% of their daily calories in milk.

There are a lot of ways you can explore this data. One thing I discovered was in comparing diets the “grams of food” view to the “calories of food” view. I learned that only about 10% of the grams, or bulk, of what we eat in the U.S. are in sugar and fat, but those foods are so calorically dense that they represent 37% of the calories we eat.

What’s even more remarkable is when you home in on one country and pull a slider to pan through 50 years of its individual eating patterns. In the U.S., for instance, you see that our overall proportions of foods haven’t changed much (we never ate our vegetables!), but we have begun to eat a higher proportion of sugar and fat, and more calories in everything. China was eating more calories (mostly in grain) until about 20 years ago, when they began eating higher proportions of meat and produce.

But I’m just scratching the surface. You can head over to National Geographic and try it for yourself.

See more here.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.