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What recipe search tells us: The coasts eat healthy, but inland, we like our bacon

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I live in Chicago, where you can buy a hotdog (mustard, tomatoes and pepper — no ketchup) on every street corner and that molten cheese-and-sausage coronary known as the Chicago-style pie is always a phonecall away. The Windy City has a reputation for unhealthy eaters, but a new study by recipe search engine Yummly indicates Chicago isn’t the unhealthiest city in the country when it comes to cooking our own food.

That distinction goes to St. Louis.

Yummly, one of the largest recipe search sites on the web, analyzed over a billion individual data points from 100 million user searches over the last year to create a geographic breakdown of they types of recipes we Americans suss out online. Then it used its own recipe analytics to break down those dishes into raw ingredient data, determining the general healthiness of the food we cook (or at least the healthiness of the recipes we search for).

Yummly's recipe search app on the iPad (source: Yummly)
Yummly’s recipe search app on the iPad (source: Yummly)

The resulting trends may not surprise you. On the more “cosmopolitan” coasts, people tended toward healthier dishes, favoring fowl and fish over four-legged beasts. San Francisco, which scored highest on Yummly’s health index, is 30 percent more likely to search for a vegetable dish than Cleveland, Ohio, which scored third lowest.

We in the middle of this great land, well, we love our bacon, cheese and cake. And frankly I’m a bit disappointed that we Chicagoans — given our obsession with meat and fat stuffed into intestines — didn’t even rank in the top five of Yummly’s unhealthy index of the 25 most populous metro areas. In case you were wondering, though, here are the cities that did:

Source: Yummly
Source: Yummly

Fellow inlanders (and North Carolinians), it should make you feel better to know that according to Yummly’s data, California reinforced all of the expected stereotypes for kale and tofu consumption. So, we may die sooner, but hey, at least it will be with a belly full of meat.

6 Responses to “What recipe search tells us: The coasts eat healthy, but inland, we like our bacon”

  1. If you’re going to post or publish data about health, please read Gary Taubes’ Good Calories Bad Calories. Most of common wisdom about what is healthy is completely backwards. It’s somewhat amazing to see the common public continue to fear meat but speak not of sugar or bread.

  2. Gabriel Ramuglia

    Eating healthy does not mean avoiding meat, as it’s carbohydrates that make us fat and sick. Toast is far worse for you than bacon, yet the premise here is the opposite. Even without any other flaws in the data, this assumption that meat is bad for you makes the results here more than worthless.

  3. Hey Kevin, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news first. You seem to assume that eating unhealthy causes premature death, or in your own words that you won’t live as long as a Californian. You have no need to worry. There may be a correlation between eating healthy and living longer but it’s a statistical association that should not be taken for a causal relationship. Who knows, if you Chicagoan exercise or do other stuff your chances may be as good. And now the bad news. Since there is no statistical level of significance associated with those numbers (actually there are no numbers on that chart!) there is no way to tell whether they are meaningful. So Chicago may be last. But that may not be bad news for those who take pride in being last!

    • Kevin Fitchard

      Hey Remi,

      The post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but you’re right. The only thing Yummly’s data tells us is what people who use its recipe search engine are looking for in the 25 biggest metro markets. It’s not pretending to paint a picture of the overall health of people in the U.S.

      I actually eat much healthier than I let on, consuming vegetable or fish at most meals, though I admit to having a passion for encased meats.

      Thanks for commenting.