A Week of Groceries in Different Countries



What do families in different countries eat during a week? Several people have sent me the link to this gallery, picturing food choices for some families in some 20 different countries. The differences are, to say the least, major:

A Week of Groceries In Different Countries [Pictures]

One comment is that the richer the country, the more junk food they seem to consume. And considering a previous discussion about how Mexico became the most obese nation on earth, this picture speaks for itself.

What do you think?


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  1. kevin furr
    OMG that's enough Coca-Cola to drown an elephant, they're so screwed.
  2. Berit
    Where's the meat?

    Coke..... And those amounts of fruit... some say "eat fruit and stay lean"...by the looks of it, I think that's wrong too

  3. Gretchen
    Yes, they're drinking a lot of Coke. But other than that, their food looks better than that of the UK and US. It should be easy to improve their diet by coming up with Coke substitutes rather than a completely new way of cooking/eating that would be required in countries that use no fresh produce and don't cook at home.

    Re meat, maybe they're vegetarians. I see they eat eggs. Not clear what's in the bags to the right of the pineapple. Flour? Rice?

  4. Marcy
    Could the bags next to the pineapple be white flour tortillas? Just a guess. Don't see any other tortillas and the Mexicans I know eat a lot of them, both white flour and corn, these look like white flour though. Now that you mention it, Berit, where is the meat? I know they do eat chicken and fish and other protein besides eggs. Oh, I do think I see what could be sausage in front of some of the Coke. I am also thinking that they would even be more unhealthy if their Coke was made with High Fructose Corn Syrup instead of proper sugar like ours in the USA.
    Reply: #25
  5. Gretchen
    They'd probably make their own tortillas from flour: corn or wheat or both. I don't think HFCS is a lot worse than table sugar.
    Reply: #7
  6. eddy
    Mexico soda consumption is out of this world and the ramifications are 99000 new cases of diabetes each year. To get the dirty on this and how world trade policies affect a nations ability to deal with obesity read this:


  7. barry
    HFCS _IS_ a lot worse than table sugar! while table sugar does contain fructose, HFCS has more fructose which directly affects the liver in a negative way.

    see http://authoritynutrition.com/9-reasons-to-avoid-sugar/

    and http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/brainwaves/2013/07/15/is-sugar-re...

    and http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/06/19/richard...

  8. Agneta
    "School lunches around the world" is a good one as well.


  9. Gretchen
    Barry: None of the three cited references compare table sugar (50% fructose) and HFCS (55% fructose). Yes it has more fructose, but not a lot more. Some people who rant about fructose buy agave syrup, which is about 80 or 90% fructose. Some people think the "high" in the name means "lots of fructose." It's actually high in comparison with plain corn syrup (think Karo), which is all glucose.

    Lustig makes errors in his biochemistry, so I take his conclusions with a grain of salt.

    I'm not pushing sugar of any kind. I'm just saying that I think there are more important dietary changes than substituting table sugar for HFCS, like substituting broccoli for pasta and sugar.

    Reply: #17
  10. Ondrej
    Among western nations Italy, France, Poland and Japan look the trimmest.

    Notice all include carbohydrates and food looks fresh.

  11. eddy
    you want to see how bad it is, this is a recent doc done in the UK that looks at how these food giants are buying up distribution networks in poorer countries , the lengths they go to in order to sell their cheap junk the impact it has on the poor.

    In the first section they look at Chiapas the poorest state in Mexico where the babies are getting colas in their forumulas not be lost on the viewer was President Vincent Fox Mexico not to long ago president was a CEO at coca cola.


    Reply: #12
  12. bill

    That's just another show that conflates saturated
    fat with sugar and 'overeating' as the main causes
    of obesity.

    Just watching the woman in Brazil crying and
    knowing that is the anguish of hundreds of
    millions of people around the world is gut-

    The show's solution is like Lustig's: Get the
    governments involved. But the governments
    are causing the problem. The food pyramids
    and myplates are criminally incorrect. What if
    they start taxing butter and other saturated fats?
    That would just compound the problems.

    Carbohydrates turn to glucose in the body.

    Damn, this is frustrating.

  13. paleozeta
    in poorer countries food is used for nutrition, in others often food is used to fill voids.
  14. Sami Joah
    Actually I'd think that poor countries would be more at risk for obesity if you consider cycles of deprivation causing the body to go into starvation mode and affordable but very unhealthy high starch and high carb foods. Just my opinion.
  15. FrankG
    I agree with Gretchen, Eddy, that chemically the difference between HFCS and table sugar (sucrose) is minimal. This issue (especially in N. America) has more to do with the fact that HFCS is based on corn; which enjoys massive subsidies from the US government and as such, makes it very cheap to the food manufacturers. This is one reason its use has become so widespread and insidious in the food supply.

    There may be other more subtle chemical differences because it is not a naturally occurring substance and the result on an industrial process but I suspect these are secondary to the fact that it is present (along with many other "cheap filler" corn fractions, in the form of refined starches) in just about every manufactured "food", even those we do not think of as sweet.

    Reply: #16
  16. FrankG
    Apologies eddy... comment was meant to be directed at Barry. Too early in the mornin' for typin' :-)
  17. FrankG
    Regarding Dr Lustig's and biochemistry errors Gretchen, can you be please more specific or point me to a reference? I'm genuinely interested in getting the science clear.

    As I recall, in the the original presentation which went viral, he gratefully acknowledged a colleague who I understood was a biochemist specialising in fructose metabolism and had vetted all the materials?

    In general I have found Dr Lustig to be both a mix of headline catching statements "it's toxic!" but also a little harder to pin down on some details... on one hand, much (but not all) of his advice seems to favour LCHF but he then turns around and says that he does not.

    My personal theory is that he is trying to walk a political tightrope where a man of his standing relies on funding and peer recognition to both further his career and causes; so if he comes right out and says certain things he might end up jeapordising both his work future and his message. Other "independents", many with blogs that we read, can speak freely but I think Dr Lustig is potentially in the position of working the system from the inside.

  18. Galina L.
    I grew up during socialism with no fast food choices around ,so people cooked their meals and didn't snack on pre-packed foods. The bread, mostly sourdough rye, was eaten with every meal. Such eating habits keep young and most adults at normal weight, but do not protect from middle-age weight gain, and from skinny-fat condition for old people. It definitely do not protect from the Western Deceases. People who lived only in capitalistic world think that all illnesses are resulted from being fat, like people got fat then got sick. In my family and many others I observed in Russia , meany overweight family members outlived skinny ones. My father, for example, died at 51 from a heard arrest, grandfather at 71 from a liver cancer, they were thin all their lives. I put my mom (76yo)on a LC diet, it normalized her blood pressure and keeps her from getting seasonal flues. Even now, after 20 years of capitalism, Russian crowd looks mostly thin. It takes years before massive chandes take place, but it is easy to notice more and more fat children on streets and guys with huge bellies.
    What is the point of looking at the pictures of people who live hard life growing grain and bean crops they rely on, or at Masays? Well, most of them are skinny, but it has no correlation to your life. Often smoking is not included as a life-style feature when some skinny population is described, even though smoking plays a big part in suppressing appetite and keeping people thin.They would be fat and sick in no time if they moved into the environment we live in now, especially if they quit smoking. You and me, we all live in a Western World, we have to find a way to adjust to the current environment in order to protect our health and quality of life. Skipping carbs is much more compatible with our life-style, some complain that eating gluten-free and low-carb is not socially friendly, however a "food reward" is much worse at that regard, plus less effective, less nutritious and less satisfying
  19. Brian Snyder
    I think the point of the photo essay is not so much the content of the food but the abundance of food consumed. However, since content is king, I think these photos speak for themselves. A direct correlation between processed foods and a more "plump" family is seen clearly here.
  20. Gretchen
    Frank, I don't have time right now to go back and pinpoint the errors, as I think there was also a misleading sentence in Art and Science of LC Living, and I'm not sure which is which, but I remember being shocked and writing Lustig off in terms of research. He makes blanket statements and expresses them with extreme confidence, which is one reason his video went viral.

    If I run across the exact sentence, I'll let you know. I think it had to do with glucose-fructose conversion and glycolytic pathways.

    Even Peter Attia has made biochemical errors. I once wrote to him about one and his answer suggested he didn't understand the biochemistry.

    I'm not saying my understanding of biochemistry is perfect either. Far from it. That's why I wrote to Attia. I thought maybe I was the one who was getting it wrong.

    But I think MDs study biochemistry early in their careers and then their brains get filled with clinical stuff and they forget some of the biochemistry that isn't really critical in their practice. Entropy rarely comes up when you're interviewing a patient.

  21. Marcy
    Galina, I love your insight on things. I totally agree with you, it has been medically proven there can be healthy people a few or more pounds overweight and very unhealthy thin people. Lifestyle and genetics certainly play a part. I was overweight all my life, since birth, but ate healthy and exercised, didn't over-drink, never smoked, etc and my health markers have always been right in range, whereas, loads of thin people I know have high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases from sedentary lifestyles or smoking and over-drinking. As for the HFCS issue, I always suspect eating things man-made in a laboratory, look what they have found out about margarine and trans-fats now, they clog arteries and cause heart disease more than pure lard or butter. No HFCS ever for me. Sugar only once in a blue moon, like a bite of a special wedding or birthday cake just for a taste but NEVER HFCS.
  22. FrankG
    Thanks Gretchen. No worries, I understand how it goes :-) I'd appreciate it if you do recall it some time.

    We are all only human (both a good and bad thing) and I have no issue with understanding slip-ups from someone if they later recognise the problem and address it. It's those that press on with an "untruth" even after it has been pointed out to them that I quickly start to distrust. Or even more so those that purposely set out to deceive.

    I don't think we necessarily need to write off everything a person says just because some of it turns out to be wrong or misguided... Newton was an alchemist and calculated key dates based on the bible stories for example, and Einstein had great difficulty accepting Quantum Mechanics for another. :-)

    Dr Lustig does indeed make blanket statements and like I said above I suspect he is playing a political game. Nonetheless I think he is also closer to my way of thinking than the conventional wisdom of low-fat calorie-restriction to cure the word of all its health woes. So I've not given up on him yet. Maybe his "game" will keep him close enough to the establishment that we might hope to see him on the next USDA nutritional guidelines committee or similar? It's not a perfect world but I have learned to pick my battles.

  23. Matt
    Why are the trimmest looking families the ones with the most bread and very little meat?

    It seemed like the order of fitness went: Heavy Sugar and Fruit consumption, Moderate Sugar Fruit, Meat, Lots of meat, less meat mostly bread.

    What is up with that?

  24. Alquimista
    Antes nuestra alimentación era tan saludable, soy de un pueblo con 4000 habitantes de Guanajuato México y se contaban con las manos las personas con diabetes, hoy día la mayoría de las familias tiene uno o dos miembros con diabetes y muchos ignoran que la tienen por no hacerse la prueba
  25. Khan

    I am also thinking that they would even be more unhealthy if their Coke was made with High Fructose Corn Syrup instead of proper sugar like ours in the USA.

    You've got it backwards, Coke in the USA is made with high fructose corn syrup while Coke in Mexico is made with regular cane sugar.

    I know because back in college I had friends who would buy imported Mexican Coke for that very reason.

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