Fast Food Consumption In US On Decline
February 21, 2013

US Fast Food Intake Declines As Economy Forces Tighter Belts

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

According to a new federal health survey, Americans are including fewer fast food calories in their diet than they did just a decade ago. This report comes on the heels of another recent study which indicated that US children are eating fewer calories than they did 10 years ago.

Based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), federal researchers showed that adults took in about 11 percent of their daily calories from pizza, hamburgers, fries and other fast food in 2010 — down from around 13 percent in 2006.

The survey also found that the dietary percentages of fast food decreased as the participants got older. Those in the 20- to 39-year-old age group consumed about 15 percent of their daily calories from fast food, while 40- to 59-year-olds averaged about 10 percent and people 60 and older only around 6 percent.

Not surprisingly, the data also varied by the participants´ weights, with the heaviest respondents taking in the highest percentage of calories from fast food. Those who were 35 or more pounds over normal weight received about 13 percent of their calories from fast food, while that number was around 11 percent for people who were 1 to 34 pounds overweight. For those who were at an ideal weight, fast-food calories only made up about 10 percent of their daily calorie intake.

The survey´s findings are based on over 11,000 interviews conducted between 2007 and 2010. The researchers did not investigate the causes behind the shifts in eating habits, but the decline coincides with a plateau in the US obesity rate, as recently reported by the CDC.

The federal report´s findings also matched up with those of a separate study recently conducted by the market research firm the NPD Group. The NPD study found that the average American bought about 152 meals at “quick-service” restaurants over the last two years, down slightly from 158 in 2006.

NPD's chief industry analyst Harry Balzer told USA Today that his group´s study does not include meals from full-service restaurants. He also pointed out that the decline in fast food consumption is probably more of an effect of economic realities rather any increased health consciousness. The trend towards falling fast food purchases, explained Balzer, "is mostly due to money because we never let our overall food costs rise faster than our incomes, and our incomes have been under pressure so we ate more meals at home."

"The actual cost of a restaurant meal is three times the cost of an in-home meal,” he added.

In addition to reporting on fast food trends, another federal survey released this week found encouraging trends for childhood dietary patterns. For boys, daily calorie intake declined by about 7 percent to 2,100 calories between 1999 and 2010. For girls, it declined by 4 percent to 1,755 calories a day.

The study´s results are also partially reflected in the national obesity rates for children, which have been flat or even modestly declining in some areas in recent years. The findings suggested that a drop in carbohydrate consumption was responsible for the decline since the overall calorie intake from fats remained stable while those from protein actually increased. The drop in caloric intake was most noticeable among boys ages 2 to 11 as well as among teenage girls.