The U.S. trend of increasing overweight and obesity started about 1970. I wonder if eating away from home is related to the trend. I found a USDA report with pertinent data from 1977 to 1995. It also has interesting info on snacking and total calories consumed. Some quotes:
“We define home and away-from-home foods based on where the foods are obtained, not where they are eaten. Food at home consists of foods purchased at a retail store, such as a grocery store, a convenience store, or a supermarket. Food away from home consists of foods obtained at various places other than retail stores (mainly food-service establishments).”
“Over the past two decades, the number of meals consumed has remained fairly stable at 2.6 to 2.7 per day. However, snacking has increased, from less than once a day in 1987-88 to 1.6 times per day in 1995. The increased popularity in dining out is evident as the proportion of meals away from home increased from 16 percent in 1977-78 to 29 percent in 1995, and the proportion of snacks away from home rose from 17 percent in 1977-78 to 22 percent in 1995. Overall, eating occasions (meals and snacks) away from home increased by more than two-thirds over the past two decades, from 16 percent of all eating occasions in 1977-78 to 27 percent in 1995.”
“Average caloric intake declined from 1,876 calories per person per day in 1977-78 to 1,807 calories per person per day in 1987-88, then rose steadily to 2,043 calories per person per day in 1995.”
“These numbers suggest that, when eating out, people either eat more or eat higher-calorie foods or both.”
Parker here. I’m well aware that these data points don’t prove that increased eating-out, increased snacking, and increased total calorie consumption have caused our overweight and obesity problem. But they sure make you wonder, don’t they? None of these factors was on a recent list of potential causes of obesity.
If accurate, the increased calories alone could be the cause. Fast-food and other restaurants do all they possibly can to satisfy your cravings and earn your repeat business.
If you struggle with overweight, why not cut down on snacking and eating meals away from home?
Update January 23, 2013:
Here’s a pie chart I found with more current and detailed information from the U.S. government (h/t Yoni Freedhoff):