Supplement Reviews
Honest Inquiries Into Interesting Ingredients

You buy too much cheese and not enough nuts

You buy too much cheese and not enough nuts

The chart above shows how the Department of Agriculture thinks you should be spending your money in the grocery store (the yellow bars), contrasted with what Americans actually buy (the blue bars). Unsurprisingly, we spend too much on refined grains, red meat, candy, prepared meals, and sodas and other drinks, and not enough on fruits, vegetables, fish, and poultry.

The government’s researchers found these spending habits didn’t vary all that much by geography, race, or income, although the rich have slightly better habits than the poor. That gap is particularly frustrating, because as the chart shows, our diet is not only unhealthy, but costly as well. Red meat is more expensive than poultry, and beverages and candy, which together account for nearly a quarter of the typical household’s expenditures, don’t do anything to fill you up.

Part of the explanation is surely the massive, sustained and successful advertising campaign that the food industry has been carrying on for decades, as Tom Philpott notes. Differences in education likely have an effect here. Another factor in the eating habits of the poor is more difficult to quantify: Living in poverty is stressful and time-consuming. If you’re working several jobs, it’s much easier to buy a can of soup or a frozen pizza than it is to stew a chicken, and if your kids throw away the turkey sandwiches you prepare for them, you might not have the time or the desire to discipline them.

Want to know what it’s like to live on food stamps? Read this intimate, heartrending story about a family in McAllen, Texas. Or click “Know More” for the Department of Agriculture’s complete analysis of the data shown above.

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