18 Countries That Love To Eat, Drink & Smoke More Than The U.S.

09/06/2013 04:02 pm ET | Updated Sep 06, 2013

You might assume, from frequent news reports about obesity in America, that we're the most gluttonous country in the world.

But the great paradox of the country's food industry is that Americans still spend far less of our income on food than their peers in many other developed countries. You've probably seen the statistics before. Depending on your political and cultural beliefs, you probably take that either as evidence that Americans should spend more to buy better quality food or that American capitalism is the best economic system in the world.

One other factor at work, though, might be Engel's Law, a time-tested economic principle that says that people will tend to spend a smaller and smaller portion of their income on food as they get richer. Despite the recession, Americans still have among the largest average disposable incomes of any country in the world, so it's possible that Americans just spend more than the French, say, on TVs and cars, which makes our food spending look small by comparison.

To put that idea to the test, we used data from the USDA and EuroMonitor International and calculated the total amount that residents of various countries around the world spend on food at home, dining out, alcohol and tobacco. Everything you ingest, basically.

What was found, actually, was that Americans actually spend far less in absolute terms than the residents of many other countries on comestibles. So it's not just Engel's Law at work. There are surely important supply-side economic factors at play -- Many European countries place high taxes on retail items like food and have high minimum wage laws that push the cost of restaurant meals up. And it's expensive to ship food to places like Australia and Hong Kong.

But that can't be it. Cultural factors are likely at work, too. That Americans just don't love to eat, drink and smoke as much as people living in many of the other countries on the list. But scroll down and see for yourself!

19. United States of America -- $4,431 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $2274

Spending on restaurant meals: $1485

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $673

Fun fact: Americans spent an average of $649.50 on fast food in 2012, more than the residents of any other country.

united states

18. United Kingdom -- $4,533 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $2213

Spending on restaurant meals: $1405

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $914

united kingdom

17. Greece -- $4,629 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $2740

Spending on restaurant meals: $1158

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $731

Fun fact: The Greek people spent more than those of any other country at cafes last year -- $609.20 per person.

greece

16. Ireland -- $4,665 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $2037

Spending on restaurant meals: $1553

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $1075

ireland

15. France -- $4,760 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $3037

Spending on restaurant meals: $964

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $760

france

14. Belgium -- $4,858 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $3075

Spending on restaurant meals: $942

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $1051

belgium

13. Denmark -- $4,942 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $3036

Spending on restaurant meals: $854

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $1051

denmark

12. Italy -- $5,037 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $2892

Spending on restaurant meals: $1584

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $561

Fun fact: Though some Americans claim that pizza was invented in the States, rather than in Italy, there's no doubting that Italy is the world capital of pizza consumption. The average Italian spent $447.80 at pizza restaurants in 2012, almost 4 times as the average American.

italy

11. Canada -- $5,076 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $2679

Spending on restaurant meals: $1465

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $932

Fun fact: Canadians spend by far the most at bakeries of any country, with an average of $257.70 per person in 2012.

canada

10. Hong Kong -- $5,128 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $3224

Spending on restaurant meals: $1671

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $233

Fun fact: Last year, residents of Hong Kong spent more than those of any other country on full-service restaurant meals -- a whopping $1,172.10.

hong kong

9. Spain -- $5,160 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $2483

Spending on restaurant meals: $2148

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $529

Fun fact: The Spanish spent an incredible $1,334.60 per person at bars and pubs last year -- over 4 times as much as their closest competition, the Irish.

spain

8. Austria -- $5,239 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $2617

Spending on restaurant meals: $1774

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $848

austria

7. Finland -- $5,351 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $3001

Spending on restaurant meals: $1168

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $1182

finland

6. New Zealand -- $5,656 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $3284

Spending on restaurant meals: $1701

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $671

Fun fact: Weirdly, the average Kiwi spent $208.50 at full-service restaurants with North American cuisine last year, significantly more than Canadians ($168), Americans ($130) or inhabitants of any other country.

new zealand

5. Sweden -- $5,666 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home:$3193

Spending on restaurant meals: $959

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $1514

sweden

4. Japan -- $6,556 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $3193

Spending on restaurant meals: $1513

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $959

Fun fact: The average Japanese person spent $942 at chain restaurants in 2012, more than any other country.

japan

3. Australia -- $7277 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $3814

Spending on restaurant meals: $2131

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $1331

Fun fact: Ozzies spent $120 at chicken fast-food restaurants in 2012, by far the most of any country.

australia

2. Norway -- $7,624 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $4885

Spending on restaurant meals: $1151

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $1587

Fun fact: Norwegians spent more than the residents of any other country on tobacco and alcohol last year. Must be those Scandinavian winters!

norway

1. Switzerland -- $8,024 per person in 2012

Spending on food at home: $4943

Spending on restaurant meals: $1501

Spending on tobacco and alcohol: $1581

Fun fact: The Swiss led the world in per capita expenditures at self-service cafeterias last year, with $154.90 per person spent in 2012.

switzerland

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