Which Countries Have the Worst Eating Habits?

Have you ever wondered which nations guzzle the most coke, who polishes off the most chocolate bars, and who gorges themselves on ready meals? Well, you’re about to find out.

As some of you may know, I earn my living by writing analysis articles about the food industry for a market research company. To do this job, I consult a vast database to identify trends and pull off the relevant statistical information to back up my fabrications.

So, who do you think indulges in the biggest vatfuls of factory-churned slosh, a.k.a ready meals?
Answer: The UK.

Evidently, cooking is not a favourite pastime on the British Isles. Per capita consumption of ready meals in the UK stood at 14.9kg in 2012. Having spent two decades there, I can attest to the British love of ready meals, but these much maligned offerings do have their merits, as far as I’m concerned. If you want a curry of better average quality than the oil slick covered gristle that is served up in probably two thirds of Indian restaurants in the UK, and you can’t be arsed to cook one from scratch, go get it from the chiller cabinet in whichever supermarket is nearest. Avoid the really cheap stuff, obviously. You get what you pay for.

Interestingly, France, which is so up itself about the superiority of its food culture, consumed 9.6kg in ready meals per head in 2012, surpassing the US’s 8.4kg.

Finland took the closest swipe at the British Gold Medal, and other Scandinavian countries weren’t far behind. This is because Northern Europeans scoff by far the most frozen pizza (which is included in ready meals data). I guess this must have something to do with eating out being so horrendously expensive in Scandinavia.

The US is Fast Food King, …but France ain’t all that far behind!
It will not come as a surprise to anyone that the US emerges as the world’s largest market for fast food. In per capita annual expenditure, however, Australia came out tops with US$653 spent in fast food joints in 2011, compared to the US’s US$630. When it comes specifically to burger fast food, though, the US leads.

France (not that I’m picking on them or anything), clocked up the 8th biggest per capita spend on burger fast food in 2011, globally. The French spent one third more than the British, who came in 15th place.

Who downs the most Cola?
You might think it’s the US, but it’s not. In fact, it’s Mexico, with an impressive 108.6 litres per head in 2011. It seems that those, who haven’t yet scrambled across the border in the dead of night, are living the American Dream in this way. And if you compare the two countries’ obesity and diabetes statistics, it’s working a treat!

The US followed in second place with 87 litres of cola per capita. In third place, bizarrely, we have Uruguay, and then Chile. The brown stuff seeps southwards…

India is bottom of the coke charts with just one piddly litre. But they’ll catch up. As soon as they can afford to actually eat. First things first.

And last but not least…CHOCOLATE!
It’s the UK again, I’m afraid. With 11kg of chocs scoffed per head in 2012. The US only managed 4.4kg, and Spain, where I live now, a frightfully abstemious 2.1kg. Frankly, I don’t quite understand this – me moving here should have doubled this paltry figure. Must do better this year!

Fruit vs. Kitkats - No contest, really...

Fruit vs. Kitkats – No contest, really…

If you’re looking for more detailled information on countries’ fast food consumption, click here.

[For data source, click here]


26 thoughts on “Which Countries Have the Worst Eating Habits?

  1. NorthernStar

    Hurrah! I am proud of us on the chocolate front! I do think you need to single-handedly improve Spain’s stats on that though.


    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I’m trying, I’m trying! But it’s not easy. A month ago, I was delighted to find a shop that stocked Maltesers! …but when I got home and opened them, I realised they were way out of date 😦 I still have nightmares about it.


  2. roamingtheworld

    I’m not surprised about France and burgers. I recently did a few day roadtrip from Basque Country to Toulouse and was shocked by the amount of McDonald’s I saw in France. Seems a bit ironic, right?

    Your work sounds interesting. How’d you happen upon this type of work?


    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Fluke. A friend of mine saw an ad by that company, they wanted somebody with a nutrition background. I knew nothing about marketing and the stuff they did. It took me years to build up enough knowledge to be able to write analysis pieces (I didn’t start out doing that), and half the time, still I feel like I don’t have a clue of what I’m talking about, lol. But it is great, and was well worth the effort. I have a lot of freedom, e.g. to travel and live in different places.


  3. Kristin

    How interesting! Thanks for sharing. I am really surprised to read about the French eating habits, as I just read an article about how French children enjoy 4-course menus at school.
    And yes, I can totally see the coke addiction here in Mexico. Most people prefer Pepsi, and I was told (as I don’t drink that stuff) that it gets an extra sugar boost for this market. Isn’t that disgusting?


    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      My guess is that this will be French children under the age of 12, when adults still have quite a bit of control over what they are eating. Left to their own choices, teenagers like burgers, and that’s that 😉
      The formulations of food products – and even of the same brands! – can vary significantly from country to country, depending on local tastes and also regulations.


  4. gina4star

    Oooh I’m not surprised Mexico drinks the most cola… It is cheaper than water to buy, and it is available in the remotest parts of the country. I’ve seen kids wandering through the semi-desert in the north of the country to go and fill up their empty coke bottles (they have a refill system in many places). Their village didn’t have any electricity or running water, but they had coke! It’s unbelievable.


  5. Anna

    How is chocolate even ON the ‘worst eating habits’ list? It’s good for you! I think mayo should take its place – and Russia the gold, with it 🙂



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