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U.S. families eating more meals at home — and together (thank the recession)

January 30th, 2014 11:56 am by Leslie Postal

U.S. families eating more meals at home — and together (thank the recession)

Orlando Sentinel

(MCT)

Working parents report they are eating more meals with their families — and eating healthier ones, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It seems the Great Recession meant working-age adults (some of whom lost their jobs) cut back on restaurant meals and other “food prepared outside the home.”

The change (time period 2005 to 2010) may have been done to benefit family budgets. But it seems also to have benefited family time, with more adults reporting an increase in meals eaten at home with most of their family members, the study found.

And lots of other studies have touted the benefits of eating together as a family, as often as possible.

The new study noted that as well. “This increase in family meals, especially meals cooked at home, may have additional positive benefits besides the immediate effect on diet quality and related health.”

Eating fewer meals prepared elsewhere did have health benefits. The study found American families were eating somewhat better, taking in fewer calories and less fat and noshing on healthier fare.

Americans also seem to have more awareness about nutrition, with more reporting they looked at nutrition labels and paid attention to their diets than in previous years. The study was based on family surveys.

The study noted that from 1970 to 2006, the amount of money spent on prepared food (made in restaurants or other commercial kitchens) had been steadily increasing. But that trend halted when the recession hit.

Of course, that could already be changing, the study noted.

“As the U.S. economy continues to improve, unemployment falls, and working adults spend more time at their jobs, FAFH (food away from home) consumption is likely to increase to its prerecession levels and may even continue its gradual increase over time,” the study said.

But diet quality doesn’t have to decline, “if consumers continue to pay closer attention to the nutritional quality of the food they consume,” the study said.

And families can make eating together a priority, no matter who fixed the dinner.

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ONLINE

See the full report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture: http://1.usa.gov/1aR89gW

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