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The Rise of Processed Foods

You hear it all the time: Eat more whole foods and fewer processed ones. But from the looks of this chart I came across from NPR Planet Money’s Graphing America series — which breaks down how Americans spend money on groceries now compared to 30 years ago — we’re clearly not getting the message. In 1982, the average household spent 11 percent of its grocery budget on processed foods and sweets. Now, that number has skyrocketed to 23 percent.

And can you blame us really? There’s no money to be made in selling whole foods, so food companies spend all their product development and marketing dollars figuring out new ways to tempt us into buying their latest (and usually unhealthy) taste sensations. Unless you have incredibly strong will power, it’s hard not to succumb to the call of salted caramel gelato, waffle-cut salt and pepper potato chips, and heat-and-serve cinnamon buns. (Well, at least it’s hard for me not to succumb to these culinary delights.)

With Americans having effectively doubled the percentage of processed foods and sweets they buy over the past three decades, it’s not surprising that our obesity rates have doubled in that time period and our kids are three times more likely to be overweight.

Even so-called “healthy” packaged foods are probably contributing to this epidemic. Because really, when was the last time you bought a veggie pot pie that was loaded with vegetables? I usually count about 12 little piece of vegetables and a whole lot of crust and gravy.

We need to get back to eating real, whole foods as a culture. Foods you have to chop or prepare in some way before eating. I’ve been slowly weaning packaged foods from my diet over the past few years, and I’m leaner, more energetic, and healthier than I’ve been in ages.


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