Changes in Eating Habits: A Positive Effect of the Recession

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Studies don’t generally focus on potential positive effects of a recession, but a report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the recession benefited eating habits in the United States. ”Changes in Eating Patterns and Diet Quality Among Working-Age Adults, 2005-2010” evaluated three periods: before, during, and after the Great Recession. Working age adults — those born between 1946 and 1985 — comprised the sample.

Food consumption habits were then analyzed to understand the mean caloric intake, calories from food eaten away from home (FAFH in the report), fast food calories, and total meals and snacks consumed. From there, the research focused on four components of diet: percent of calories from fat, percent of calories from saturated fat, total cholesterol intake, and total fiber intake.

The USDA found that between the periods of 2005-2006 and 2009-2010, an average daily decline of 118 calories occurred. When controlling for age, this falls to 78 calories per day. Eating out less is seen as the driving force behind the calorie reduction.

Eating fewer meals away from home reverses a decades-long trend. According to the report, from 1970 to 2006, expenditures increased from 26 percent to 42 percent on meals eaten outside the home. Only 18 percent of calories were consumed away from home in 1977-1978; by 2005-2006, this had grown to 37.5 percent.

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