If you want to explain the Super Bowl to someone who doesn't understand this country, you might want to skip football and go straight to this chart. It shows just how poorly we eat during and around the Super Bowl -- and it may well be an understatement.
If you were to add up the calories per serving for every food item a household purchased during the week of the Super Bowl, it would equal more than 6,000 calories, according to a recent study. That's the largest number of calories for any week through the year — more even than during Thanksgiving — and it's not even all that close. The second unhealthiest week, when people purchase closer to 5,500 calories per serving, is the week before the week of the Super Bowl, at which point, let's face it, people are probably just planning really far ahead.
The study tracked grocery spending habits for more than 200 households in New York over the course of seven months. The purpose was to gauge whether people were any good at keeping New Year's resolutions (the answer to which is a resounding no). But the findings also proved another point: This country consumes a disgusting amount of food during the Super Bowl.
Adding up calories per serving might sound like an unusual measurement—because, well, it is—but it's actually a pretty clever way of comparing how poorly people are eating.
By looking at the sum of the calories per serving of every item purchased during the course of each week, we're able to see when households are buying both more foods and more caloric foods—or, in other words unhealthier things. That's arguably a better gauge of individual eating habits than total calories purchased, many of which go wasted or are split among many people. It is, after all, an underestimation—how often do people eat the recommended serving amount, anyway? And it doesn't even take into account all the prepared foods fans order the day of, at restaurants and bars, and from delivery services. It's hard to imagine those would be any less caloric.
"The higher number represents the fact that the household was buying foods that give more calories each time they eat a recommended serving," said David Just, a professor of Behavioral Economics and one of the study's authors. "This means people buy the highest calorie foods around the Super Bowl."
The week of the Super Bowl also happens to be the week people spend the most on average at the supermarket—nearly $150. The second most expensive grocery week? You guessed it (or you didn't, but you should have): the week just before.
It's unclear what exactly Americans are spending all that money—and all those calories—on, but it's easy enough to guess: nothing healthy. It has been said, after all, that Americans eat more than 1.2 billion chicken wings, 11 million slices of Domino's pizza, 11.2 million potato chips, 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips, and all sorts of other delicious but caloric fare, especially when their teams lose.
Previous estimates (by the USDA) have concluded that the Super Bowl is the second most caloric day of the year, after Thanksgiving. That might not be true, not on a per serving basis at least, if these latest numbers are to be believed.