Consumption of food prepared away from home plays an increasingly large role in the American diet. A number of factors contributed to the trend of increased dining out since the 1970s, including a larger share of women employed outside the home, more two-earner households, higher incomes, more affordable and convenient fast food outlets, increased advertising and promotion by large foodservice chains, and the smaller size of U.S. households. ERS economists examine factors influencing this trend as well as:

  • Nutritional quality of food away from home,
  • Effect on overweight and obesity,
  • Economic assessment of a food-away-from-home nutrition labeling policy, and
  • Effect of dietary knowledge on food and nutrient intakes.

ERS research comparing nutritional quality of food prepared at home and away from home has been used to develop Federal dietary guidelines, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.