KUNC

         

Tossed Out

You say you want a resolution

Grocery purchases didn't get much healthier from 1998-2006. In fact, the percentage spent on fruits and vegetables went down slightly while packaged foods went up. (Courtesy USDA)

This is the time of year I try to watch what I eat. But maybe what happens to me also happens to you: as I file through the family buffet I watch closely as my plate piles up to overflowing.

Then I watch a slice of pecan cozy up next to that lonesome slice of apple pie. Wait. How long has that scoop of vanilla been there?

For those of us planning to hit the reset button on Jan. 1, a report from the USDA offers a worthwhile reality check. Even before you watch what goes on your plate, you ought to watch what goes into your shopping cart.

Here’s what researchers with the Economic Research Service found out: In 2006, the most recent data in the study, nearly half of food expenditures went toward beverages and packaged, processed foods. Less than 20 percent went toward fresh fruits and vegetables.

Researchers scored the food that went into shoppers’ carts against the USDA’s dietary guidelines. A shopper following all of the guidelines would score 100. On average, according to the study, American grocery shoppers scored 56.4.

At least there’s plenty room for improvement.

The fight to bring obesity under control has targeted schools, which are limiting calories and increasing the amounts of fruits and vegetables they serve. It has also targeted chain restaurants, which are beginning to post calorie information on their menus. Several big food companies have even pledged to decrease the amount of sodium in packaged foods.

But some researchers think there’s room for supermarkets themselves to help shoppers reset their priorities by encouraging people to buy healthy foods and “de-marketing” junk food.

Here’s a holiday season test to see if you’re ready to resist filling your cart with impulse buys: walk past grandma’s cookie tray and don’t pick anything up.