Fast food is the single largest source of eating-out calories for U.S. adults and children

A chart showing the share of daily categories by source of food.

ERS calculations using intake data from the 2005-08 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that Americans age 2 and older ate an average of 2,067 calories a day, up from 1,875 calories in 1977-78. During 2005-08, adults obtained 1,454 calories, or 69 percent of their daily calories, from at-home foods -- food bought at supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, and other retail outlets. Children age 2-19 obtained 67 percent of their daily calories (1,310 calories) at home. For both groups, fast food places accounted for the largest share of away-from-home calories. Adults consumed an average of 264 calories at fast food places and 209 calories at restaurants. Children consumed an average of 266 calories at fast food places and 140 calories at school. This chart appeared in "Food and Nutrient Intake Data: Taking a Look at the Nutritional Quality of Foods Eaten at Home and Away from Home" in the June 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

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