- WASHINGTON (AP) - Americans eat out twice as often as they did in the late
1970s, putting their nutrition at risk because the meals they get away
from home contain more fat and less fiber, iron and calcium, a <http://www.usda.gov
U.S. Agriculture Department report has determined.
- Health-conscious Americans do a good
job making sure their meals are high in fiber, iron and other nutrients
when they cook at home, according to the report released Tuesday by the
- But the proportion of meals eaten away
from home has nearly doubled, from 16 percent in 1977-78 to 29 percent
in 1995 - an upward trend that will likely continue, the government said.
- And meals eaten away from home haven't
kept pace with the nutritional improvements in home-cooked foods, the
- Instead, food made outside the home contains
more things that Americans tend to eat too much of - like fat and saturated
- And foods eaten away from home contain
fewer of the nutrients that people don't get enough of - like calcium,
fiber and iron.
- Dr. Dennis Bier, director of the Children's
Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said
the report sends the message that consumers must carefully choose their
- "You have to pay twice as much attention
to what you eat out of the home," Bier said.
- For instance, fat makes up 31.5 percent
of the calories in foods at home. But it makes up 37.6 percent of the
calories in away-from-home foods, the Agriculture Department said.
- The fiber content of food prepared outside
the home was 25 percent less and the calcium content 20 percent below
nutritional benchmarks. For iron intake, food prepared away from home
was 29 percent below the nutritional benchmark.
- The report was based on food consumption
surveys from 1977 to 1995. Providers of away-from-home food are defined
as everything from fast-food places to restaurants, cafeterias and vending
- "Americans should be aware of this
nutritional gap," said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. "It
reinforces the need for nutrition information and education in schools
and at home, so that everyone can make more healthful food choices."
- Americans may simply have different attitudes
when eating out, leading to the nutrition gap, the report notes.
- "Consumers may believe that it is
less important to consider the nutritional quality of food away from home
or be less willing to sacrifice taste when eating out," the report
- Several fast-food chains and restaurants
have introduced reduced-fat foods in the past, only to withdraw them from
their menus because of consumer disinterest, the report noted.
- And with the increasing numbers of households
in which both adults work - and the vast number of affordable fast-food
restaurants - there's no sign Americans will revert to the kitchen table
for meals anytime soon.
- "We expect to eat out more and more
in the future," said Biing-Hwan Lin, a USDA economist who helped
write the report. "This eating out may present a challenge to us
in improving our diet."