Americans Eating a Third of Calories Away from Home

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On average, approximately a third of American's daily calories come from restaurants and other foods prepared away from home, a percent that has almost doubled over the past three decades, according to the latest USDA data. Except for a slight dip from 2005 to 2009, the growth in calories prepared outside the home shows that Americans are cooking less of their own food.

The food away from home category includes cafeteria meals, restaurant deliveries, and sit-down restaurants. Between 1977-78 and 2005-06, the share of calories Americans ages two and older consumed outside the home rose from 18 to 34 percent. Consumption of fast-foods drove this trend, increasing from 6 percent in 1977 to 16 percent in 2005-06. In 2007-08, the share of calories obtained away from home dropped slightly then fell again in 2009-10 to 29 percent. The increase in calories eaten at home suggests that Americans economized during this time by eating out less. By 2012, the food away from home’s share of daily calories increased up to 34 percent and the fast-food share to 16 percent.

Source: USDA's Economic Research Service. Updated July 2016.

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    Published on July 13, 2016

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