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How much time do Americans spend eating?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Successful policies to mitigate the rise in obesity and other diet-related health conditions in the U.S., depend on an understanding of Americans' eating patterns, Eating patterns encompass not only what and how much people eat, but also when and where they eat, how long they spend eating or snacking, and whether they dine alone or with others.

The Eating & Health Module of the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) collects information on Americans' eating patterns, general health, food and nutrition assistance program participation, grocery shopping, and meal preparation, Funded by ERS and the National Cancer Institute, the Module is a supplement to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' ATUS, a continuous survey that began in 2003. One individual from each sampled household is interviewed about his or her use of time for the 24-hour period on the day before the interview. Survey respondents are asked to identify their primary activity if they were engaged in more than one activity at a time,

According to 2006 ATUS and Module data Americans age 15 and older spent 67 minutes on an average day in "primary" eating and drinking of beverages, that is eating/drinking as a self-reported main activity. In addition, Americans spent an average of 16 minutes eating and 42 minutes drinking beverages (except for plain water) as secondary activities, such as while working, watching television, or playing sports. An additional 7 minutes were spent in associated activities (such as travel time to a restaurant and waiting to order). Men and women spent about the same amount of time eating/drinking,

Four percent of the U.S. population reported spending no time in primary eating/drinking on an average day, but they did spend an average of 35 minutes in secondary eating and 107 minutes (1.8 hours) in secondary drinking, Another 8 percent of the population, referred to as "constant grazers," spent an unusually long time eating and drinking--4.5 hours or more each day, Most of this group's food consumption time was spent in secondary drinking or sipping of beverages.

About two-thirds of Americans' primary eating/drinking occurrences were with family or others. However, only 42 percent were with others for secondary eating or secondary drinking, with the rest done either alone, at work, or while engaged in grooming or other personal care activities.

Karen Hamrick, khamrick@ers.usda.gov

David Hopkins, dhopkins@ers.usda.gov

Ket McClelland, ksdolan@ers.usda.gov
In 2006, men and women spent about the same
amount of time eating and drinking

Average minutes per day

 Men Women

Primary eating 67.8 66.0
and drinking

Secondary 16.1 15.4
eating

Secondary 40.8 42.6
drinking

Note: Data include civilian population age 15 and over.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2006 American Time Use Survey
and ERS 2006 Eating & Health Module.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Constant grazers spent over 6 hours a day in
secondary drinking

Average minutes per day

 Total People spending 4.5
 population hours or more eating
 or drinking a day

Primary eating 66.9 83.7
and drinking

Secondary 15.8 79.6
eating

Secondary 41.8 377.0
drinking

Note: Data include civilian population age 15 and over.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2006 American Time Use Survey
and ERS 2006 Eating & Health Module.

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Author:Hamrick, Karen; Hopkins, David; McClelland, Ket
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Dec 1, 2008
Words:558
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