Take Out and Prepared Meals

Are more Americans eating food from full-service and fast-food restaurants than they did in the past? Studies and research has shown that dining out has increased in the United States since the latter century due to family’s hectic schedules. Children are involved in more extra-curricular activities away from the home. Parents have longer commutes, more households have single-parent; who may work more than one job, more adults are attending college; no matter the reason they have less time for cooking.

The trend toward increased consumption of food away from has been attributed to the growing demand for a variety of food, convenience, and entertainment. While eating food away from home may have lower nutritional quality doesn’t suggest that consumers desire unhealthy foods nor that the consumers fail to use their knowledge of health and diet when making dining-out decisions. Restaurants may be able to sell foods of lower dietary quality than home-cooked foods, on average, because patrons desire the other attributes of restaurant meals and snacks.

Americans are consuming more of their calories from full-service and fast-food restaurants. The share of daily caloric intake from food eaten away from home has increased from 18% to 32% between the late 1970s and the middle 1990s, according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture’s food intake surveys (1977-1978 and 1994-1996). Nevertheless, these foods are more calories dense and poorly nutritional than foods prepared at home, which mean more weight gain.

More than half of adults eat out three or more times a week, and 12 percent eat out more than seven times a week. As a result, the pounds are adding up.

 “For the average consumer, eating one meal away from home each week translates to roughly two extra pounds a year,” said Lisa Mancino, a food economist for the USDA.

The poor economy isn’t slowing the trend, she added. “The data suggest that the recession is not making us eat out less, but we are eating out cheaper, choosing more fast-food and takeout options over restaurants with tableside service.”

How many more calories a diner consumes out depends on the meal. Eating lunch out has the largest effect, adding 158 calories to daily caloric intake, compared to lunch brought from home. Dinner out increases intake by 144 calories, and breakfast out adds 74 calories, according to the USDA.

A consumer’s weight also plays into how many calories they consume while eating out. For the obese, an away-from-home meal added an average of 239 calories a day versus 88 additional calories for those who weren’t overweight.

Prepared Meals

When TV dinners first entered the American supermarket in the mid-1950s, serving or eating them implied that one didn’t know how to cook; which for married women in those days was considered a crime! And if the woman didn’t want to cook that was an immortal sin.

Today, Americans eat 31 percent more packaged food than fresh food, and they consume more packaged food per person than their counterparts in nearly all other countries. A sizable part of the American diet is ready-to-eat meals, like frozen pizzas and microwave dinners, and sweet or salty snack foods. Research shows that eating pre-packaged meals are alright because it shows you the correct portion size, it lists the caloric intake of the meal on the package and it’s faster and convenient to cook. There are numerous types of prepackaged meals ranging from Asian cuisine, Italian, or that homemade American cooking. Prepackaged food are very reasonable and mighty tasty for those adults who just don’t know how to boil water.

 Work cited:

Jameson, M. (2011, July 04). Eating at restaurants boost risk of obesity, expert warn Eating out leads people to eat more, and less well. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved from

Patrick, H., PhD, Nicklas, T., A., Dr.PH. (2005). A Review of Family and Social Determinants of Children’s Eating Patterns and Diet Quality. Journal of American College of Nutrition, 24, 83-92.

United States Department of Agriculture.Center for Nutrition and Promotion. 3101 Park Center Drive Room 1034 Alexandria, VA 22302.

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