How healthy is the food Americans put in their shopping cart at the grocery store? There is a very specific answer to that question. On a scale of 1 (least healthy) to 100 (most healthy), our Healthy Eating Index is 56.4, according to a USDA study.
This information comes from Nielsen Homescan data collected from 1998 through 2006. To collect the data, Nielsen asked a sample of U.S. households to scan the UPC codes of their grocery purchases. The data show that Americans are not buying enough of the recommended foods such as dark green vegetables, whole fruits, and fish. Meanwhile, they're buying too much unhealthy food such as refined grains, red meat, beverages, and sugar. No surprises there.
Here is the surprise: there are few differences in the healthfulness of our shopping carts by income or race. Everyone is doing poorly when it comes to buying the right food. There are differences by region, however. On average, households in the Northeast and West buy healthier food than those in the Midwest and South.
Source: USDA, Assessing the Healthfulness of Consumers' Grocery Purchases