Eating Out…or In…but Are You Eating Healthy?

dirty dishes | photo: mikamatto

Americans eat out.  A lot.  Eating out does, in my book, include take out (in other words you went to a restaurant and brought it home or called in an order and had it delivered).  Sadly there are those who eat out more than one meal a day and/or more than five times a week.  That’s a lot of eating out.

It turns out we’re not the only ones to do this.  Over in England I imagine there must be a lot of people who eat out.  Enough that a rather unusual service has been invented.  One where you can not only order food to be cooked and delivered, but for an extra fee they’ll even bring the dirty pots so it looks like you cooked it yourself.

In the United States it seems that our food costs are so low that we spend a fairly small percentage of our income on it.  According to a link found on Visualizing.Org in 2011 the United States spent approximately 6.9% of household income on food.  This number has gone up due to inflation but the highest number I have been able to find is still less than 10%.  Compared to Brazil (24.7%), Canada (9.1%),  France (13.4%), Russia (28.0%), and India (24.5%) we don’t spend a lot.  In my house I know we spend more because we make the choice to vote with our wallet when it comes to groceries.  However we certainly still don’t spend nearly as much as many other people around the world.

Cheap food costs in American leaves a lot of money left for other food options such as take out.   I believe, in part, this is due to our feeling hurried, and pressured for time.  We are running late, working late, between activities, or worn out from a long day and the temptation to eat out is easy and fairly inexpensive.

However even if we aren’t eating out we still may not be making healthy food choices.  According to a recent article from Planet Money it turns out Americans are spending less of our money on food now than we did 30 years ago.  Sadly that spending is increasingly going to processed food.  While spending on fruit and vegetables remained fairly stable between 1982 and 2012 (14.5% vs. 14.6%) the amount spent on processed food has soared to nearly double (11.6% to 22.9%).  Given that overall decrease in food costs it is hard to believe that many people are not choosing to eat more foods which are nourishing and support health.  While food costs are rising, they still are not at a level that should prevent you from considering the option to eat more whole foods.

Strategies to consider:

  • Evaluate your current household food budget.  Look at what you’re spending for various categories of foods and consider if perhaps you can make healthier choices while not changing the dollar amount you spend.  
  • Choose more nutrient dense foods (which provide a lot of nutrients per calorie).  Examples of nutrient dense foods include:  eggplants, green beans, spinach, broccoli, apples, blueberries, and plums.  Examples of nutrient poor foods include chips, soda, donuts, or french fries.
  • Consider other food preparatin methods, such as pressure cooking, slow cooking, or grilling as a means of preparing healthier foods while saving time. 

About Mira

Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. A holistic nutrition professional, author, and a popular public speaker, she knows that it's not just what you eat, but what's in what you eat. She is the author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in their food. Dessy is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner whose mission is to educate and empower consumers. She curates the Lean Clean Green Subscription box, the premier, organic, earth-friendly, healthy, sustainable subscription box which can be found online at