Just how common is "eating on the run?"

In the U.S., "eating on the run" seems to be very commonplace. As described in the introduction to our eating on the run series of articles, adults in the U.S. spend an average of 74 minutes eating each day. This estimated time includes all meals and snacks combined. When viewing this 74 minutes to include 3 meals and 3 snacks, this reflects that we spend 12 minutes on each of the 6 separate eating occasions. This brief amount of time is simply not sufficient to allow for biting, chewing, swallowing, and savoring a substantial amount of food in any focused, enjoyable way. At the World's Healthiest Foods, we often get feedback about the fabulous taste of our recipes and the tremendous pleasure that people experience when cooking the nutrient-rich way. Research studies show that eating on the run is very likely to rob you of exactly this kind of pleasure.

Many people's eating practices might fall into this category of eating on the run. For example, we might grab breakfast on the way out the door or lunch in the car while doing errands. Studies on U.S. eating habits show the average U.S. breakfast only provides 17% of our daily calories. On an 1,800-calorie diet, this amount would represent about 300 calories of food. This 300-calorie amount is very close to the average number of calories in a fast-food egg sandwich, or in an energy bar plus a glass of juice. Eating on the run is often the way that we accomplish a 300-calorie, 12-minute breakfast.

Eating on the run is often made easier with snacks than meals, and this relationship is also borne out by our U.S. eating habits. Half of all U.S. adults get at least 20% of their daily calories from snacks, and 16% of U.S. adults get over 40% of their total calories from snacking! Into this category of "snacks" fall a variety of foods that might best be described as finger foods: chips, bars, fries, candy, pre-made sandwiches, or bottled smoothies. Snacking is a great fit for eating on the run since it is much easier to avoid focusing on food when eating a snack versus a meal.

Our total cooking-plus-clean-up time in the U.S. averages about 30 minutes per day. In a recent study on several dozen countries worldwide, the average cooking-plus-clean-up for countries other than the U.S. was 52 minutes, or over 50% greater than in the U.S. Eating on the run contributes to this unusually low level of cooking-plus-clean-up in the U.S., since snacks, finger foods, and quick meals often require no cooking whatsoever (or reheating at most) and no plates, knives, forks, spoons, or pots and pans. It's also worth noting here that 20% of all U.S. adults average less than 15 minutes with cooking and clean-up at dinner during the weekday, and 43% of all adults average less than 30 minutes with these two eating-related steps.

In a nutshell, what we see here is the very common occurrence of eating on the run in the U.S. This set of habits includes very little time spent with food and an ever-increasing tendency to snack. At the World's Healthiest Foods, we are especially concerned about two consequences of eating on the run—first are the lost health benefits and increased health risks, and second are the lost pleasures of food. Healthy Eating and Nutrient-Rich Cooking are two of the ways that we propose to bring back these lost health benefits and the true joy of eating. We are very confident that things do not need to remain the way they are! For additional articles about "eating on the run:"

  1. Is it okay for me to "eat on the run?"
  2. Problem 1 with "eating on the run"—getting distracted from the process of eating
  3. Problem 2 with "eating on the run"—eating too quickly for our body systems
  4. References for "Is it okay to "eat on the run?"

For more on Great Healthy Eating Habits:

  1. Does Healthy Eating require cooking on a regular basis?
  2. Are grocery lists and organized food plans required for Health Eating?
  3. Does Healthy Eating require three meals each day?
  4. Are snacks a good thing or a bad thing for Healthy Eating?
  5. Does it matter if dinner is the largest meal of the day?
  6. How consistent does my diet have to be in order for me to stay healthy?
  7. Is it possible to create a well-balanced diet without paying attention to portion sizes?
  8. Is Healthy Eating possible on a tight budget?


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