Assessing the Healthfulness of Consumers’ Grocery Purchases
by Richard Volpe and Abigail Okrent
Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-102) 34 pp, November 2012
The nutritional quality of Americans’ diets has increasingly become a focus of economic
research due to its effects on health outcomes. Health care and other costs associated
with obesity, overweight, diabetes, and other diet-related ailments continue to swell.
This study focuses on consumers’ grocery (food-at-home) expenditures to measure the
extent to which Americans are conforming to Dietary Guidelines for Americans with
the foods they purchase at the supermarket. Overall, consumers purchase too few fruits,
vegetables, and whole grains and too many refined grains, fats, and sugars/sweets. The
average Healthy Eating Index score for food-at-home purchases was only 56.4 for an
average consumer, far below the maximum score of 100, which would indicate full adherence
to the Dietary Guidelines. The healthfulness of purchases varies somewhat across
geographic regions and markets, with consumers in the Northeast and West purchasing
more healthful food than consumers in the Midwest or South. Differences across income
levels and across race are small,with all subgroups falling well short of the recommendations
in the Dietary Guidelines.
Keywords: Food-at-home purchases, healthy eating, obesity and overweight, Homescan data, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, food expenditure patterns
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See errata statement on page ii of the report for corrections.