Editor's Pick 2013:
Americans' at-home food spending out of sync with dietary recommendations

A chart showing food expenditure shares.

With food prepared at home accounting for close to two-thirds of Americans’ daily calories, purchasing choices made in the grocery store are the first steps to a healthy diet. ERS researchers compared consumers’ 1998-2006 grocery store purchases with USDA food spending guidelines for a nutritious diet and found that consumer spending came close to matching the guidelines for only 1 food category examined—potatoes. Grocery purchases as recorded by Nielsen Homescan panelists were compared with nutritionally-appropriate expenditure shares for 23 broad categories of foods and beverages. Panelists underspent on all vegetable categories, except potatoes. For example, they spent only 0.5 percent of their food budgets on dark green vegetables, while the food plan recommended 7 percent. Panelists also underspent on whole grains, whole fruit, lower fat dairy, nuts, poultry, and fish. They overspent on refined grains, fruit juices, regular dairy products, red meats, beverages, and sugar and candies. This chart appears in “Americans’ Food Choices at Home and Away: How Do They Compare With Recommendations?” in the February 2013 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine. Originally published on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.

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