The surveys are in. We are the champions.
According to Euromonitor International and the USDA, US consumers top out the charts by consuming the most packaged food per capita. In fact, our packaged purchases outnumber our fresh ones by 31%. Yes, we are truly excellent at buying and consuming 787 pounds per year of frozen dinners, packaged snacks, and other convenient but usually unhealthy foods. Compare that with China, with the Spartan total of 116 pounds per person, not including bulk rice. India kept it lowest with only 39 pounds.
That breaks down to 2.15 pounds of packaged food per day, on average. It’s possible that could be wholesome whole grain cereal and milk, canned vegetable soup, and frozen vegetables for dinner. That would not be so bad. But if it’s sugar bombs for breakfast, frozen pizza for lunch, bags of potato chips and big plastic bottles of soda for snacks, we are looking at the paradox of wealth in this country. We have food everywhere, and cheap, packaged food is ubiquitous.
Vegetarians are not immune to this syndrome. Witness the proliferation of fake meats, weird burgers and frozen vegetarian meals. Making the switch to a meatless diet should mean eating more vegetables, at least. Don’t be a junk food vegetarian-chips and bars are not for daily meals.
On the other side of the equation, The US consumer bought 602 pounds of fresh food, 194 of that in vegetables. Compare that with China again, where consumers consumed 1,034 lbs of fresh food, 609 of those pounds in vegetables. That means the average Chinese citizen ate 415 more pounds of vegetables in a year than the average American.
That is alot of stir-fry.
Looking at this data, I know that it can be misleading. We do buy plenty of wholesome food in packages. Americans like clean and tidy, sanitary plastic bags and boxes of stuff. Our grocery stores are set up to stock the dried beans in plastic bags on the bottom shelf, not in bulk bins. Oats come in boxes with resealable tops.
It’s the junk food that is over the top. We make it just too easy to live on grease, salt and sugar, right out of the package.
Just for today, take a look at what you are buying and consuming. Ask yourself if it would really take that much more effort to cut up some vegetables and put them in a pan. Frozen pizza takes at least 30 minutes, if you pre-heat the oven. In that time you can cook quinoa and saute some veggies.
Is there really no time to cook? Is there anything that you are spending time on that might be less important than making sure that you eat real food?
Walk away from twitter, turn off the email, go ahead and cook with the TV on, if it pleases you. Just cook for your self and your family.
You will never look back on your deathbed and say, I wish I had spent less time cooking. I promise.