You Should Know

July 2015 Issue

Processed Foods Dominate Supermarket Shopping

Highly processed foods—soda, cookies, chips, white bread, prepared meals—make up more than 60 percent of the calories in the foods we buy, according to an analysis of grocery purchases in the U.S. From 2000 to 2012, researchers from the University of North Carolina asked 157,142 households to use barcode scanners to record all foods and beverages they purchased from supermarkets for at least one year. Their purchases were then linked to nutrition, product, and ingredient information. They found not only that highly processed foods were dominant among shopping patterns, but also that these foods were higher in fat, sugar, and salt compared to less processed foods. The study was presented at the American Society for Nutrition Annual Meeting in March 2015. So, what does this study highlight? Many Americans really do prefer convenience and taste over health when it comes to making food choices. However, consider this: a bag of prewashed salad greens, dumped into a salad bowl and tossed with a vinaigrette is arguably delicious, and takes seconds to prepare. And what about the ease—and flavor—of a fresh, ripe tomato sliced into a sandwich made with whole grain bread, or a can of earthy garbanzo beans mixed into a salad, or a perfect summer peach for dessert. Easy, tasty, and healthy are not mutually exclusive descriptors.

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