Where Do Americans Get Most of their Calories?


Americans spend one trillion dollars a year on food. Half of every food dollar is spent on food outside the home. One would expect that at least half the calories we consume would be outside the home as well. Maybe more, because home cooking is healthier right?

But in a study recently published in Nutrition Journal, it appears that only 30% of calories come from food outside the home. More precise data:

  • Depending on age, supermarkets and convenience stores were the food purchase locations for between 63% and 70% of calories in the US diet.
  • Restaurants provided between 17% and 26% of total calories.
  • School meals provided 10% of calories for kids and 6% for adolescents.
  • Vending machines provided less than 1% of calories.
  • Pizza away from home provided 2.2% of calories in the diets of children and 3.4% in the diets of adolescents. Just pizza!
  • Soda, energy, and sports drinks from fast food establishments provided approximately 1.2% of calories.

In other words, limiting your visits to McDonald’s and TGI Friday’s won’t suffice if you want to eat healthier and lose weight. You need to do some serious work on the home front as well.

  • HawkJRL

    To me this really isn’t news, at least for how our family lives.

    The media really likes to spin it a different way though, don’t they?

  • Sólyom Csaba

    This conclusion should really be a no-brainer for anyone thinking even just a little bit about this.
    The fact that half the money spent on food is outside the home should not lead us to the conclusion that half the calories should be outside the home as well – because of simple math.
    Eating out, almost anywhere is much more expensive than making you own food. So, from the same “half dollar”, one can make 2-3x as much food at home – in my experience. With conscius shopping habits, maybe even more.

    So the only thing this study estabilishes is that in the USA, eating out costs roughly 40% more, than making your own food.

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  • DarrylM

    Have you ever noticed the ratio of processed foods to fresh foods in the grocery carts? I would say home cooking of processed foods is the reason more calories are consumed at home.