On-the-Run Eating Decreases, Diet Quality Improves in U.S.

Adults in the United States are eating less, largely due to a decrease in consumption of "food away from home" (FAFH), including fast food and on-the-go snacks and meals, according to findings of a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

WASHINGTONAdults in the United States are eating less, largely due to a decrease in consumption of "food away from home" (FAFH), including fast food and on-the-go snacks and meals, according to findings of a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The amount of calories consumed by working-age adults in the United States declined by about 118 calories per day between 2005-06 and 2009-10, according to the report, "Changes in Eating Patterns and Diet Quality Among Working-Age Adults, 2005-2010."

FAFH intake fell by 127 calories per day, and the share of calories from FAFH declined 4.75 percentage points, from 34.7% in 2005-06. Of those, daily fast-food calories fell by 53, and the share of calories from fast food declined 1.8 percentage points, from 14.4% in 2005-06.

As a result of higher consumptions of meals at home, the amount of meals eaten as a family increased, as well as the number of home-cooked meals.

The report also assessed changes in overall diet quality. The share of total calories from fat declined 3.3% relative to 2005-06, and the share of total calories from saturated fat declined 5.9%. Intake of cholesterol declined by 24 milligrams per day (7.9%), while fiber intake increased 1.2 grams per day (7.5%).

While decreased FAFH consumption played a 20% role in the improvements of diet quality, responses to survey questions about diet behavior and nutrition (comparable only in the 2007-08 and 2009-10 surveys) suggest other factors were at play.

For instance, working-age and older adults were less likely to answer that thinness or fatness is something people are born with in 2009-10, suggesting that more individuals recognize weight is within individual control.

In addition, more adults reported using the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) and package health claims when shopping for food in 2009-10 compared with 2007-08. Among working-age adults, 34% used the NFP always or most of the time in 2007-08 versus 42% in 2009-10. Among older adults, the share went from 51%-57% percent between the two periods. Use of health claims always or most of the time increased from 18%-31% percent for working-age adults and from 36%-47% for older adults.

Many efforts are being made to reduce obesity in the United States, now considered an epidemic, including formulation of better-for-you products by food and beverage manufacturers. In addition, legislation requiring restaurants and similar retail food establishments to list calorie content information for standard menu items on restaurant menus and menu boards has prompted healthier choices among U.S. consumers.

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