What Are the Staple Foods of America?

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Donuts combine two staples: grains and sweets.
Donuts combine two staples: grains and sweets. (Image: YekoPhotoStudio/iStock/Getty Images)

A staple food is a typical food of a particular society or culture. Another way of thinking about staples is that they are the foods that provides a significant percentage of the daily calories in any given area. Though American cuisine is as much a melting pot as American society, some foods are common enough throughout the country to be considered American staples..

Grains

Grains, particularly wheat, make up a large part of the American diet. According to the USDA's 2010 Dietary Guidelines, the two greatest sources of calories in the American diet are grain-based desserts and bread. On average, Americans eat 6.30 ounces of grain per day. About half of that is refined grain; the rest is whole grain. In addition to bread and dessert, Americans eat grains in the form of breakfast cereal and snacks.

Meat

According to the Earth Policy Institute, Americans ate 171 pounds of meat per person in 2011. Poultry is the most common meat on American tables. Americans eat roughly 70 pounds per person per year. Beef and pork make up most of the rest of meat consumption. Beef is consumed at a rate of 52 pounds per person and pork at a rate of 44 pounds per person per year. Turkey and fish make up a smaller fraction of American meat intake.

Sweeteners

Sugar and other sweeteners make up such a large percentage of Americans' calorie intake that they can be considered staples. Sweeteners take the form of refined sugar, from both sugar beets and sugar cane; corn sweeteners -- specifically high fructose corn syrup -- and honey, maple syrup and other sweet syrups. Americans consume nearly a hundred pounds of sweeteners per person per year. Sugar mainly sweetens grain products, beverages and candy. High fructose corn syrup sweetens beverages and candy. In fact, Americans eat roughly 25 pounds of corn sweetener per person per year in carbonated beverages alone.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most common foods in America. According to Foods Commonly Eaten in the United States, a study conducted by Pennsylvania State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roughly 46 percent of Americans eat tomatoes in some form every day. Nearly 86 percent eat tomatoes at least every other day. Processed tomato products account for nearly 80 percent of all the tomatoes eaten in the United States. Tomato sauces, such as marinara and other pasta sauces, are the most common form of processed-tomato food. Tomato paste, canned whole tomato products, ketchup and juice make up most of the rest of the uses for processed tomatoes.

Potatoes

Americans eat about 143 pounds of potatoes per capita per year, making it the country's favorite vegetable. At home, Americans consume the greatest percentage, 28 percent, of their potatoes in the form of potato chips. Away from home, they consume 59 percent of their potatoes as fried potatoes, most commonly french fries. Baked potatoes are the third most common type of potatoes Americans eat.

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