When Americans go to the grocery story, they rarely do what they told by federal nutrition guidelines, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Many of our diets aren’t what they should be,”  Richard Volpe, part of the USDA’s Economic Research Service, wrote today. “Americans eat fewer fruits and vegetables than Federal nutrition guidance recommends, and we over-consume fats, added sugars, and refined grains.”

Volpe said that “Consumer spending came close to matching USDA recommendations for only 1 of the 23 food categories—potatoes—under-spending on the other vegetable categories,” according to a study of grocery store purchases. “For example, households spent an average of only 0.5 percent of their food budgets during 1998-2006 on dark green vegetables compared with the recommended 7 percent. Households also under-spent on whole grains, whole fruit, lower-fat dairy, nuts, poultry, and fish, while they over-spent on other foods including refined grains, fruit juices, regular dairy products, and meats. Refined grains, for example—a category that includes non-whole grain crackers, cookies, breads, and pasta—accounted for 17 percent of the spending; the USDA spending guidelines recommend 5 percent.”

To improve food purchases, Volpe recommended people read “our report, Assessing the Healthfulness of Consumers’ Grocery Purchases.”