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Potatoes and tomatoes are America’s top vegetable choices

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed an average of 156.3 pounds of fresh and processed vegetables per person in 2015. The loss-adjusted food availability data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and adjusts for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in restaurants, grocery stores, and the home to more closely approximate consumption. Potatoes claimed the #1 spot at 48.3 pounds per person, including both fresh potatoes and processed products (frozen, canned, and dehydrated potatoes and potato chips and shoestrings). Canned tomatoes are the leading canned vegetable, and total tomato consumption—fresh and canned—came in second at 28.3 pounds per person. Americans consumed 7.7 pounds of fresh and dehydrated onions per person in 2015, almost a pound more than head lettuce consumption. Consumption of carrots, sweet corn, and romaine and leaf lettuce finished the list of America’s top seven vegetable choices. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product.

As income rises, households tend to devote a larger share of their at-home food spending to vegetables

Monday, April 16, 2018

ERS researchers used household-level data from Information Resources Inc. to investigate how food spending patterns differ by household income and age of the household food shopper. The researchers found that as per person income rises, households spend a larger portion of their at-home food expenditures on vegetables. This was true for all four generations examined, though the increase for Traditionalists was small. Poorer Millennials assigned lower shares of at-home food spending to vegetables than Traditionalists and Baby Boomers with similar incomes. Millennials with higher incomes apportioned more of their food budgets to vegetables, surpassing Traditionalists when per capita household income was around $30,000. The wealthiest Millennial households (per capita income greater than $50,000) dedicated about 8 percent of their food budgets to vegetables, compared to around 6 percent for the other generation groups in the same income decile. The rise in vegetable purchases among wealthier Millennials may reflect Millennials’ preference for healthy foods. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Food Purchase Decisions of Millennial Households Compared to Other Generations, released December 2017.

Millennials devote a higher share of their at-home food budgets to  prepared foods

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Millennials are now the largest living generation—surpassing Baby Boomers—in the United States. Their large collective buying power is only expected to expand as their earnings increase as they age. Food retailers, for example, increasingly respond to preferences for grocery store foods that are ready-to-eat or just need to be heated before consuming—preferences that Millennials clearly display. A recent ERS study found that across almost all income ranges, Millennials assigned more of their food-at-home budgets to prepared foods, such as canned soup or deli rotisserie chicken, when compared to older generations. With the exception of households with incomes of $20,000 to $28,332 per household member, the share of food-at-home expenditures devoted to prepared foods stayed relatively constant for Millennial-headed households at 7.5 to 8 percent. In contrast, Traditionalists, the oldest generation represented, generally allocated the least amount of their food budgets to prepared foods, with a small decline in the share for households with higher per capita incomes. This chart appears in "Millennials Devote Larger Shares of Their Grocery Spending to Prepared Foods, Pasta, and Sugar and Sweets Than Other Generations," in the December 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Millennials spend less per person than other generations on grocery store foods

Friday, January 19, 2018

A recent ERS analysis of 2014 grocery store data found that compared to older generations, Millennial-headed households spent the least per person on food at home. However, like the other generations analyzed, Millennial households with higher incomes tended to spend more on grocery store foods than Millennial households with lower incomes. This is likely because poorer households have less income to spend on food at home. Even with this lower spending, lower income households still spend a higher share of their total food budgets in grocery stores. Traditionalists and Baby Boomers spent more per person on food at home in each of 10 income groups than Millennials and Gen X’ers. For example, of households earning between $14,000 and $20,000 per household member annually, Millennials spent just under $80 per month per person on food at home and Gen X’ers spent $85, whereas Baby Boomers in that income group spent $135 and Traditionalists spent $154. Differences in food-at-home spending between the generations may reflect the younger generations’ stronger preference for eating out, which may change as they age. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Food Purchase Decisions of Millennial Households Compared to Other Generations, released on December 29, 2017.

Thanksgiving is a day for food, and Black Friday is a day for non-food shopping

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Do people really spend that much time preparing food, eating, drinking, and cleaning up the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day and on holiday shopping on Black Friday? The answer to both questions is, “Yes!” Over a survey period of 2003-16, Americans spent an average of 88 minutes eating and drinking on Thanksgiving. This was about 15 minutes greater than the time Americans spent eating and drinking on average for 6 other major holidays. Similarly, compared with the average for these non-Thanksgiving holidays, Americans spent much more time engaged in meal preparation and cleanup (127 minutes versus 46 minutes). Now, when it comes to the day after Thanksgiving, relative to other days, Americans tend to spend more of their time shopping for items other than food. Americans spent 46 minutes shopping for non-food items on an average Black Friday, which is about 250 percent higher than an average non-Thanksgiving holiday. More information on ERS’s Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey can be found in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.

Survey data point to Americans eating out less often in 2013-14 compared with 2007-08

Thursday, October 26, 2017

ERS developed the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey (FCBS) module, which, starting in 2007, has been part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The FCBS questions are designed to collect data on U.S. consumers’ dietary knowledge, attitudes, and habits, including their eating out habits. ERS researchers used FCBS data to get a sense of how often Americans purchase or acquire meals prepared away from home in places such as restaurants, fast-food places, food stands, grocery stores, and vending machines. In 2013-14, adults age 20 and older reported that they purchased or acquired an average of 3.6 away-from-home meals in the past 7 days—down from 4.0 meals in 2007-08. This decline in eating out could potentially reflect tighter food budgets due to the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009) and the slow economic recovery afterwards. The number and share of away-from-home meals reported as coming from a fast-food or pizza place was about the same in both periods. Data for this chart are from the Food Consumption & Demand topic page on the ERS Web site, updated on September 18, 2017.

Oranges and apples are America’s top fruit and fruit juice choices

Monday, October 23, 2017

Americans consumed an average of 115.4 pounds of fresh and processed fruit per person in 2015, according to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data. This data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and adjusts for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in eating places, grocery stores, and the home to more closely approximate consumption. Apple juice consumption at 14 pounds (1.6 gallons) per person in 2015, combined with fresh apples at 10.7 pounds per person, and canned, dried, and frozen apples (3.3 pounds per person), puts apples in the #1 spot for total fruit consumption. While orange juice leads juice consumption at 23.7 pounds (2.7 gallons), total orange consumption—juice and fresh—came in second. Americans consumed 11.3 pounds of fresh bananas per person in 2015, almost a pound more than fresh apple consumption. Consumption of grapes reached 7.9 pounds per person, and strawberries, watermelon, and pineapple rounded out the list of America’s top fruit choices. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 2017.

Americans’ consumption of vegetables and legumes has moved closer to recommendations

Friday, September 8, 2017

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet consume 2½ cup-equivalents (cup-eq) of vegetables per day. A cup-eq of vegetables is generally equal to 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens. The Guidelines include recommended amounts of five vegetable subgroups (dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy, and other) and advise Americans to consume a variety of vegetables from each subgroup. According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data (a proxy for consumption), the average American consumed 1.72 cup-eq of vegetables and legumes per day in 2015—69 percent of the daily recommendation for a 2,000 calorie-per-day-diet—and up from 1.49 cup eq in 1970. While starchy vegetable consumption declined by 17 percent (mostly due to drops in fresh potatoes and canned corn), daily dark green vegetable consumption grew from 0.02 cup-eq in 1970 to 0.15 cup-eq in 2015. Romaine and leaf lettuce and fresh broccoli were the largest contributors, reflecting the growing demand for salads and fresh vegetables. Consumption of legumes and other vegetables increased, closing in on the Guidelines’ recommendations. Red and orange vegetable consumption grew to 0.23 cup-eq per day in 2015, but is still just 30 percent of the recommendation. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated July 26, 2017.

Apples/applesauce and pineapples accounted for 56 percent of canned fruit availability in 2010-14

Thursday, January 19, 2017

According to ERS’s food availability data, 14.2 pounds per capita of canned fruit were available for consumption by U.S. consumers in 2010-14, down after averaging 21 pounds per person in 1990-94 and 25.1 pounds per person in 1970-74. Canned apple and applesauce availability was 4.1 pounds per person in 2010-14, while canned pineapple availability—the second highest—was 3.9 pounds per person. With the exception of olives, per person availability fell for all canned fruit between 1970-74 and 2010-14. For example, in 1970-74 canned peaches led canned fruit availability at 6.5 pounds per person, but dropped to 2.7 pounds per person in 2010-14—a 58-percent decline. The availability of canned pears fell from 3.8 pounds per person in 1970-74 to 2 pounds per person in 2010-14. One reason for declines in canned fruit availability is that some consumers switched to fresh fruit. Canned fruit’s share of total U.S. fruit availability decreased from 10.6 percent in 1970-74 to 5.6 percent in 2010-14, while fresh fruit availability grew by 34.5 pounds per person and boosted fresh fruit’s share from 41 percent to 52 percent. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.

Meal preparation time varies across different U.S. demographic groups

Thursday, January 12, 2017

On an average day in 2014, Americans age 18 and over spent 37 minutes in food preparation and cleanup. However, the average time spent in “meal prep”—defined as preparing food and beverages, serving them, and cleaning up afterwards—varied considerably among different groups. Men spent an average of 22 minutes, whereas women spent an average of 51 minutes. Younger adults (age 18-24) spent an average of 21 minutes, while working-age adults (age 25-64) spent 38 minutes. Those age 65 or older spent an average of 43 minutes. Employed individuals spent less time in meal prep than those not employed, and those in households without children spent less time than those in households with children. Participants in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) had the longest average duration in meal prep time—62 minutes. Time spent preparing infant formula, breastfeeding, and pumping breast milk is included in meal prep time in the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). These time use data are from the ERS-developed 2014 Eating & Health Module—a supplement to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ ATUS. This chart appears in “Americans Spend an Average of 37 Minutes a Day Preparing and Serving Food and Cleaning Up” in ERS’s November 2016 Amber Waves magazine.

Seventy percent of U.S. calories consumed in 2010 were from plant-based foods

Friday, January 6, 2017

ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data provide estimates of the sources of calories in the U.S. diet. These data are derived from the supply of food available for consumption and adjusted for inedible peels and pits and for spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual intake. Loss-adjusted daily calories per person decreased by 2 percent between 2000 and 2010 from 2,545 to 2,481 calories. The share of calories from animal- and plant-based foods was the same in both years at 30 percent and 70 percent, respectively. In both years, grains were the primary contributor to daily calories per capita. Added plant-based fats and oils—such as salad and cooking oils, margarine, and shortening—ranked second, followed by meat, poultry, and fish. Per capita availability of calories from nuts showed the largest percentage change, posting a 25-percent increase to 72 calories per day in 2010. Calories from the vegetable and added sugar and sweeteners categories decreased by 11 percent. This chart appears in “A Look at Calorie Sources in the American Diet” in the December 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

SNAP households are less likely to think they eat the right amount of fruits and vegetables

Friday, December 9, 2016

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adult men and women eat between 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day and 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day. To help gauge perceived dietary habits, respondents in USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) were asked a series of questions about their health and diet. When the primary respondents (the main food shopper or meal planner in the household) were asked if they think they eat the right amount of fruits and vegetables or if they should eat more, 76.1 percent of primary respondents in households receiving SNAP benefits said they should eat more. In contrast, 66.1 percent of those who reside in households not receiving SNAP felt they should eat more fruits and vegetables. By better understanding perceived health and dietary habits, food assistance programs may be modified to help Americans follow heathier diets. This chart appears in “FoodAPS Data Now Available to the General Public” in the December 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Cheese accounts for largest share of dairy cup-equivalents in U.S. diets

Thursday, December 1, 2016

According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed just under 1.5 cup-equivalents of dairy products per person per day in 1974 and in 2014—half the recommended amount for a 2,000-calorie diet. While Americans are consuming the same number of cup-equivalents of dairy products, the mix has changed. Consumption of cheese has more than doubled during this time from 0.29 cup-equivalents per person in 1974 to 0.64 cup-equivalents per person in 2014, while yogurt consumption grew almost ten-fold to 0.05 cup-equivalents per person. Fluid milk consumption stood at 0.55 cup-equivalents per person in 2014, down from 0.90 cup-equivalents per person in 1974. Several factors have contributed to this decline, including competition from soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water, and other beverages; generational differences in the frequency of milk drinking; and a more ethnically diverse population, some of whose diets do not normally include fluid milk. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated October 11, 2016.

Yes, Thanksgiving really is a day of cooking

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

If you think Thanksgiving is a day spent cooking, eating, and socializing, you are correct. On this national holiday over a survey period of 2003-15, Americans spent an average of 128 minutes in meal preparation and cleanup—over three times the 34 minutes spent on these tasks on an average Saturday or Sunday. Time spent eating and drinking is greater as well--89 minutes on Thanksgiving versus an average of 71 minutes on a average weekend day. Socializing time is over twice the weekend average—148 minutes versus 64 minutes. All this cooking, cleaning, and socializing leaves less time for other weekend activities. The average time spent in sports and exercise is less on Thanksgiving, as is time spent on shopping, including online purchases. Less time is also spent on paid work (32 minutes versus 75 minutes) and travel (55 minutes versus 72 minutes) due to less commuting. Time spent watching television and movies, however, is about the same as the average weekend day. This chart uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey and draws from the ERS report, Americans’ Eating Patterns and Time Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data.

Americans began to adjust their food spending patterns about a year before the 2007-09 recession

Friday, November 18, 2016

A recent ERS analysis found that between 1999 and 2006, the share of the average household food budget allocated to basic and complex ingredients fell steadily from around 24.7 to 20.8 percent, but then began to climb reaching 24.2 percent in 2010. Basic ingredients, such as milk and fresh meats, and complex ingredients, such as mayonnaise and bread, are grocery store foods used to prepare a meal or snack. The food budget share—defined as total expenditures at grocery stores and eating-out places—spent on ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat grocery store foods followed a somewhat similar, but muted, pattern. The upturn in food budget share devoted to ingredients and ready to eat/cook grocery foods began almost a year before the 2007-09 recession and its aftermath—a time when many consumers cut back on eating out, especially fast food meals and snacks. The share of the total food budget spent in fast-food outlets where customers order and pay at a counter grew until 2007 to 30.6 percent, then declined to 25.7 percent in 2010. This chart appears in “Purchases of Foods by Convenience Type Driven by Prices, Income, and Advertising” in the November 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Availability of refined sugars has been higher than corn sweeteners since 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2016

In 2014, 131.0 pounds per person of caloric sweeteners were available for consumption by U.S. consumers, down from a high of 153.1 pounds per person in 1999. Availability of total corn sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glucose syrup, and dextrose) contributed to the drop, falling from its peak of 85.2 pounds per person in 1999 to 60.7 pounds per person in 2014. High corn prices, price competition with refined cane and beet sugars and other caloric sweeteners, as well as shifting preferences among consumers and food manufacturers have contributed to this decline. Availability of refined cane and beet sugars fell from 101.8 pounds per person in 1970 to 62.7 pounds per person in 1985, then remained relatively flat for the next two and a half decades. Refined sugar availability began to rise in 2011, surpassing corn sweetener availability and reaching 68.3 pounds per person in 2014. Rising honey imports have contributed to recent increases in per capita honey availability. In 2014, per capita honey availability stood at 1.2 pounds and per capita availability of edible syrups was 0.8 pounds. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated October 11, 2016.

Fresh and frozen shellfish lead the growth in seafood availability

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The supply of seafood available for consumption in the United States is up from 11.7 pounds per person in 1970—but down from a peak of 16.5 pounds in 2006—according to ERS food availability data. In 1970, fresh and frozen shellfish accounted for 21 percent of seafood availability. In 2014, by comparison, fresh and frozen shellfish (mostly shrimp) accounted for 34 percent of the 14.5 pounds per capita of seafood available for consumption. New efficiencies in shrimp aquaculture beginning in the early 1980s, which sharply increased availability and reduced prices, made shrimp a popular menu item at fast casual dining places across the United States. A 35-percent decline in canned tuna availability since 2000 was largely offset by a surge in fresh and frozen fish availability from low-cost imports of farm-raised salmon and tilapia and the increased use of wild-caught Alaska pollock in frozen fish sticks, imitation crab meat, and fast-food sandwiches. This chart appears in “Americans’ Seafood Consumption Below Recommendations” in the October 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

American adults who eat at fast food places averaged 2.7 visits a week in 2014

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Eating out accounts for a significant share of Americans’ food budgets and diets. ERS analysis of data from the Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey provides a snapshot of which household types are purchasing “fast food” and how often. Fast food in the analysis includes prepared food from a deli, carry-out and delivery food, and food from a fast food restaurant. Over an average week in 2014, 58.2 percent of American adults purchased fast food and those who purchased fast food did so an average of 2.7 times. Couples with children were the most likely to purchase fast food (64.5 percent), whereas single-person households were the least likely (51.1, percent). However, single-person households had the highest average number of weekly fast food purchases. Men who purchased fast food did so an average of 3 times per week, whereas women who had purchased fast food averaged 2.5 times. This chart appears in the ERS report, Americans’ Eating Patterns and Time Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data, July 2016.

Non-Hispanic Blacks were the only racial/ethnic group to increase whole fruit and total fruit consumption between 1994-98 and 2007-08

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A recent linking of ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data with food intake surveys from 1994-2008 revealed that Non-Hispanic Blacks were the only group of the racial/ethnic groups examined that had higher whole fruit and total fruit consumption in 2007-08 compared with 1994-98. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that at least half of a person’s recommended fruit consumption be whole fruit. Non-Hispanic Blacks increased their whole fruit consumption to 71.4 pounds per person in 2007-08—an amount still below that of Hispanics and the "other" racial/ethnic group. All four racial/ethnic groups consumed smaller quantities of orange juice and larger quantities of apple juice in 2007-08. Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics had the largest increases in apple juice consumption. This chart appears in“A Closer Look at Declining Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Using Linked Data Sources” in the July 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Obese adults spend more time watching TV and movies and less time engaged in sports and exercise

Friday, September 2, 2016

Data from the ERS-developed Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey provide information on activities and behaviors of different segments of the U.S. population. Survey respondents age 20 and older were asked their height and weight, allowing for calculation of their Body Mass Index (BMI) which was then grouped into normal, overweight, and obese weight categories. On an average day in 2014, time spent eating and drinking as a primary, or main, activity did not vary much across the weight groups; neither did eating while doing something else. However, other activities did show different patterns. The most pronounced was watching TV and movies. Obese adults spent an average of 190 minutes a day watching TV and movies, compared with 153 minutes by normal weight individuals and 171 minutes by overweight adults. Sports and exercise was another activity where time use patterns differed. Normal weight and overweight adults spent the same amount of time, statistically-speaking—18 minutes and 20 minutes—engaged in sports or exercise, while those who were obese averaged 11 minutes a day. This chart appears in the ERS report, Americans’ Eating Patterns and Time Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data, July 2016.

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