Seems like these days Americans are spending more money at the grocery store, the problem is the increase in spending is on all the wrong things. With obesity in the country steady climbing one would think the extra money is going towards buying healthier options for families, but instead Americans are spending more money than ever on processed foods high in fat, sodium and sugar. All heath no-nos.

A series of charts published as part of Planet Money’s Graphing America series on National Public Radio’s website shows the real reason Americans are getting fatter is that nearly 23 percent of the grocery bill is for processed foods and sweets, making it the single biggest category for household’s grocery spend. Part of this has to do with shifting costs. The dropping cost of sugar, which is down more than 16 percent over the last 30 years, has made sweets more affordable for manufacturers to make and for consumers to buy. Also, cheap, processed food has become increasingly popular staple at many stores, where discount ramen noodles, frozen casseroles and other packaged food are finding a home on the shelves.

Health officials are concerned that this trend can have very serious consequences down the line and are predicting increases in diet related deaths. Officials are urging consumers to spend their time shopping the perimeter of their local grocery stores, meaning we should buy food from the produce, dairy and meat aisles and avoid the inner lanes where processed foods and sugary snacks hang out. With processed foods often being cheaper and quicker to prepare, it’s unsure how many of us will follow this advice, but hopefully it won’t take an increase in deaths for us to finally get the message.

How much processed food ends up on your grocery list? How do you substitute for your processed faves?


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  1. As a vegan I find myself shopping alot more than when I was a vegetarian or a meat eater. I very few processed foods, like my vegan ice cream or vegan pizza, I just have fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and frozen veggies. I have to shop more because I like my food fresh and it doesn’t last more than a week and a half. I am fortunate to be able to afford it and I believe its worth it because I cook more and discover more and more veggies and fruits to cook. The only down side is that when i just crave something simple like snacks, I don’t have any.

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