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Americans Are Eating Less and at Home, USDA Reports

Americans are eating out less, eating fewer total calories and eating better at home, a USDA study released Thursday finds.

Image::Fast-food restaurants signs line a street in South Los Angeles. A new report shows Americans are eating out less and eating better at home.|||[object Object]
Fast-food restaurants signs line a street in South Los Angeles. A new report shows Americans are eating out less and eating better at home. Getty Images file / 2008 Getty Images

Americans are eating out less, eating fewer total calories and eating better at home, a USDA study released Thursday finds.

The new report by USDA's Economic Research Service studied American eating habits between 2005 and 2010, and found more Americans paying attention to nutritional information at home.

Among the report's findings:

  • Overall, daily caloric intake declined by 78 calories per day between 2005 and 2010.
  • Calories consumed away from home — including in restaurants and fast food — dropped by 127 calories per day, and the average person ate three fewer meals and 1.5 fewer snacks per month away from home.
  • There were declines in calories from total fat (3.3 percent), saturated fat (5.9 percent) and cholesterol (7.9 percent).
  • Fiber intake increased by 1.2 grams per day (7.5 percent).
  • 42 percent of working age adults and 57 percent of older adults reported using the Nutrition Facts Panel most or all of the time when making food choices.
  • 76 percent said they would use that information in restaurants if it were available.

The decline in consumption of food away from home accounted for 20 percent of the improvements in diet quality, according to the report. It cited a recent study that found a 12.9 report decline in spending on food away from home during the recession. Eating at home more often was also associated with more frequent family meals.

The report also indicates changing attitudes toward food and nutrition. Compared with 2007, the percentage of working-age adults who believed they have the ability to change their body weight increased by three percentage points in 2010. During the same time period, the report shows there was little change in the importance that price played when making choices at the grocery store, but working-age adults placed more importance on nutrition when choosing what to buy.

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