Eating out in America, 1987-2000: trends and nutritional correlates

Prev Med. 2004 Feb;38(2):243-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2003.10.004.


Background: Despite widely held beliefs about increasing popularity of eating away-from-home and its possible contribution to increasing adiposity of the US population, there are little published data on this topic. To address this issue, we examined trends in frequency of consumption of commercially prepared (CP) meals reported by Americans aged > or =18 years, and its nutritional correlates.

Methods: The data were from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) 1987 (n = 21,731), NHIS 1992 (n = 11,718), and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2000 (n = 5,330). The information on CP meal consumption was obtained from questions included in the three surveys. The independent association of reported CP meal frequency with body mass index (BMI), and intakes of energy and macronutrients was examined using multiple linear regression methods.

Results: The mean reported number of CP meals per week was 2.5 in 1987 and 1992, and 2.8 in 1999-2000. In 1987, approximately 28% of the population reported 0 or <1 commercially prepared meal per week, decreasing to 24% in 1999-2000 (P for trend <0.0001). However, the proportion of the population reporting three or more weekly CP meals increased from 36% in 1987 to 41% in 1999-2000 (P for trend < or =0.0005). The odds of eating out at least one or more and three or more meals per week were 40% higher (95% CI 1.20-1.70) in 1999-2000 relative to 1987. The reported number of CP meals per week was positively associated with estimates of energy intake (P < or = 0.0001) in each survey. Self-reported and measured BMI were modestly associated with the reported number of weekly CP meals in women in 1999-2000 (P < or = 0.05).

Conclusion: Our results confirm that in 1999-2000, more Americans ate out, and ate out more frequently than in 1987 and 1992. Higher eating-out frequency was associated with adverse nutritional consequences.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Diet*
  • Eating
  • Energy Intake*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Restaurants*
  • United States