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Americans are eating less and healthier at home, USDA finds

Fast Food
Fast-food restaurants signs line a street in South Los Angeles. A new report finds Americans are eating out less and are eating fewer calories.David McNew / Getty Images file

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 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 eating out 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 a rise in the importance working-age adults placed on nutrition when deciding what to buy.