Want to start eating healthier? According to many studies, the solution is very simple – start eating at home more.
According to a study by the Johns Hopkin School of Public Health, “People who frequently cook meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less”.
With that said, here are 12 insightful statistics on eating in versus out that will hopefully compel you to start doing more of the former and start eating more healthily starting today.
1. Americans on average eat out 5.9 times per week
Zagat’s 2018 dining trends survey reported that, on average, Americans eat out 5.9 times a week. But what are the reasons for this high frequency?
One of the culprits is social media. 53% of the 13,000 diners surveyed browsed food photos on social media, with 75% of these diners picking a place to eat out based on the photos. Since the dishes recommended on social media look more enticing than what an average person could probably make, it makes sense that more people are choosing to eat in restaurants and fast food chains.
Americans on average eat out 5.9 times per week (breakfast, lunch, or dinner).
2. Only 10% of Americans love to cook
Hate all the “hassle” that goes into cooking? You’re not alone. A 2017 study found that:
- 45% of Americans do not enjoy cooking
- 45% are ambivalent
- Only 10% love cooking
According to an extensive survey, almost half of all Americans (45%) say they do not enjoy cooking.
Safefood’s research suggests that one of the reasons for these surprising statistics is that the current generation is simply ill-equipped to prepare healthy meals on their own. This includes not just cooking, but also planning meals ahead, budgeting, and food basics like nutrition and safety.
3. Modern women spend 66 minutes per day cooking, compared to 112 minutes in the 1960s.
According to a comprehensive study done on home food preparation and consumption trends in the US, Americans are cooking less than they used to, no matter their socioeconomic status.
The difference is even more noticeable in women. In 2008, women spent an average of 66 minutes on cooking every day. That’s 50 minutes less than the average in the 1960s. The average for men slightly improved by 8 minutes. But, this is not enough to really make any significant difference.
4. On average, eating out is 5 times more expensive than cooking from scratch
One of the drawbacks of eating out is, of course, the price. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spends almost half of their food budget on eating out. This is an increase of 94% since 2013, according to Nielsen.
The more you cook from scratch at home, the more money you save while eating healthier. Eating out is estimated to be 5x more expensive than cooking at home. Not surprisingly, protein-based entrees are the most expensive, while vegetable and pasta-based meals are the cheapest.
5. A majority of restaurants serve portions that are 2 to 3 times larger than the recommended healthy portion sizes
Added costs aside, the real reason why the trend of eating out is alarming is that it can be disastrous to your health. To attract customers, most restaurants serve portions that are 2 to 3 times larger than the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommended portions. Unlike when you’re preparing your own meals, you have control over the ingredients and the amount.
For example, the red meat entrees offered in restaurants are often bigger than 3.3 ounces. And, according to a German study, people who consume more than 3.3 ounces of red meat per day have a 41% higher risk of stroke than those who only ate about 1.7 ounces each day.
6. 36% of adult Americans dine out at fast food restaurants once a day
When it comes to eating out, fast food restaurants are a popular choice. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 36% of adult Americans eat fast food once a day.
To give you a better idea of the demographics, here are some interesting statistics.
- The 20 to 39 age group account for 44.9% of fast food consumers.
- Men were more likely to eat fast food for lunch while women tend to eat fast food as a snack.
- The percentage of fast food consumers increased with income.
7. 57% of meals at fast food chains exceeded the 1,500-milligram recommended daily sodium intake.
A lot of people know that fast food products are high in sodium. What they do not know is just how horrifyingly high it is.
Well, a 2010 survey by the New York City Health Department found that 57% of fast food chain restaurants have more sodium than the 1,500 mg recommended by the American Heart Association. The meals that were inspected had an average of 1751 mg of sodium, while 20% had more than 2300 mg. Fried chicken meals had significantly more sodium and calories than burger meals.
8. 11 out of 25 fast food chains failed after getting tested for antibiotics.
In 2017, a report grading America’s most popular fast food chains in terms of antibiotic use was published. 11 out of 25 fast food chains failed for not making any significant efforts to reduce their supply chain’s antibiotic use. Only Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread were awarded an A rating.
Antibiotic resistance is another concern that’s linked to fast food. According to the CDC, every year, at least 2 million Americans contract infections that are resistant to antibiotics. And, about 23,000 of these cases lead to death.
9. Eating fast food 2 to 3 times a week increases the risk of coronary heart disease by almost 80%, Type 2 diabetes by 27%
The University of Minnesota Academic Health Center monitored 52,000 people for a period of 16 years to find out the correlation between fast food intake and some common diseases. It reported that eating fast food once a week can increase the risk of coronary heart disease by 20%. The risk can go up to 80% for people who consume fast food products four or more times in a week.
Eating fast food 2 to 3 times a week increases the risk of coronary heart disease by almost 80%.
Aside from coronary heart disease, it also increased the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 27% for people who ate fast food items 2 or more times per week.
10. People who eat fast food are 51% more likely to suffer from depression
It’s not just our physical health that can get affected by regular fast food intake. According to a 2012 study, people who consume fast food and commercial baked goods have a 51% higher chance of developing depression. Of course, the more fast food one eats, the higher the risk.
According to a 2012 study, people who consume fast food and commercial baked goods have a 51% higher chance of developing depression.
And, it’s not just depression. Fast foods lack omega-3 fatty acids. Without this nutrient, the body falls into an anxious mental state. The artificial colors and preservatives used in fast food products are linked to increased hyperactivity.
11. Compared to home-cooked meals, meals from full-service restaurants have an additional of 205 calories, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, and 451 milligrams of sodium.
Full-service restaurants can be even worse than fast food in some areas. A study done by the American Cancer Society and the University of Illinois at Chicago found that fast food has, on average, 194 more calories, 3.5 additional grams of saturated fat, 4.0 additional grams of sugar, and 296 more milligrams of sodium than what is recommended.
On the other hand, dishes in full-service restaurants added 205 more calories, 2.5 more grams of saturated fat, and 451 more milligrams of sodium.
This supports a 1999 study which reported that the frequency of restaurant food consumption is linked to increased body fatness.
12. Food in restaurants and cafes contain 35% higher level of toxic chemicals called phthalate compared to home cooked meals
Another reason why eating out can be dangerous to health is the toxic chemicals that can be found in the foods in restaurants, cafes, and fast food outlets. A study which used data collected from 2005 to 2014 reported that people who eat at these establishments have up to 35% higher level of phthalates than those who ate home-cooked meals.
Phthalate is a hormone-disrupting chemical that is linked to birth defects, behavioral problems, obesity, fertility issues, asthma, neurological problems, cardiovascular disorders, and cancer. It can be found in plastic food containers, takeaway boxes, food wrappers, gloves, and other kitchen equipment such as tubing.
Eating Better for Less
Once we truly appreciate all the benefits of home cooked meals, the hassle of cooking at home seems secondary in comparison.