Americans spend more on processed food

Health advocates have one tip for Americans trying to eat less fat, sodium and sugar in their diets: Shop the perimeter-produce, dairy and meat aisles, reports The Huffington Post. Avoid the inner lanes where processed foods and sugary snacks hang out. But it turns out this advice is being ignored, as the greatest portion of Americans' grocery spend is straight from the center aisles.


Nearly 23 percent of the grocery bill is for processed foods and sweets, making it the single biggest category for household's grocery spend; meat comes next with just more than 21 percent. Compare that to 30 years ago, when meat made up the biggest portion of the grocery bill, fruits and vegetables second and processed foods ranked a distant fifth.


In 1982, meats made up 31.3 percent of the shopping list, followed by fruits and vegetables (14.5 percent), grains and baked goods (13.2 percent), dairy products (13.2 percent), processed foods and sweets (11.6 percent), beverages (11 percent), and other foods (5.3 percent), according to Planet Money/National Public Radio.


2012 tells a different story. Processed foods and sweets make up 22.9 percent of the shopping list, followed by meats (21.5 percent), fruits and vegetable (14.6 percent), grains and baked goods (14.4 percent, beverages (11.1 percent), dairy products (10.6 percent and other foods (5.1 percent).


Part of this has to do with costs. Sweets and snacks are more affordable. Meat today is also significantly cheaper than it was in the early Reagan years, which means it takes up less of the total grocery bill.


Americans are overall spending less on groceries, according to Planet Money. In 1982, more than 12 percent of Americans' spending went toward groceries; today that figure is less than 9 percent. Processed food offers more caloric bang for the buck than non-processed foods on average, thereby providing a significant share of daily calories in one cost-effective -- and time-effective -- serving. The reason that we don't spend as much money on groceries is because we don't have to.