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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?


  • References for 4 "eating on the run" articles:
  • Andrade AM, Greene GW, and Melanson KJ. Eating Slowly Led to Decreases in Energy Intake within Meals in Healthy Women. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 108, Issue 7, July 2008, Pages 1186—1191.
  • Higgs S. Manipulations of attention during eating and their effects on later snack intake.
  • Appetite. 2015 Sep;92:287-94.
  • Karl JP, Young AJ, and Montain SJ. Eating rate during a fixed-portion meal does not affect postprandial appetite and gut peptides or energy intake during a subsequent meal. Physiol Behav. 2011 Mar 28;102(5):524-31. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.01.007. Epub 2011 Jan 14.
  • Lee JS, Mishra G, Hayashi K, et al. Combined eating behaviors and overweight: Eating quickly, late evening meals, and skipping breakfast. Eat Behav. 2016 Jan 21;21:84-88.
  • Leong SL, Madden C, Gray A, et al. Faster self-reported speed of eating is related to higher body mass index in a nationwide survey of middle-aged women. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Aug;111(8):1192-7.
  • Long S, Meyer C, Leung N, et al. Effects of distraction and focused attention on actual and perceived food intake in females with non-clinical eating psychopathology. Appetite, Volume 56, Issue 2, April 2011, Pages 350—356.
  • Mantzios M and Wilson JC. Mindfulness, Eating Behaviours, and Obesity: A Review and Reflection on Current Findings. Curr Obes Rep. 2015 Mar;4(1):141-6.
  • Mason AE, Epel ES, Kristeller J, et al. Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on mindful eating, sweets consumption, and fasting glucose levels in obese adults: data from the SHINE randomized controlled trial. J Behav Med. 2015 Nov 12. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Ogden J, Coop N, Cousins C, et al. Distraction, the desire to eat and food intake. Towards an expanded model of mindless eating. Appetite. 2013 Mar;62:119-26.
  • Ogden J, Oikonomou E, and Alemany G. Distraction, restrained eating and disinhibition: An experimental study of food intake and the impact of 'eating on the go'. J Health Psychol. 2015 Aug 20. pii: 1359105315595119. [Epub ahead of print]
  • O'Reilly GA, Cook L, Spruijt-Metz D, et al. Mindfulness-based interventions for obesity-related eating behaviours: a literature review.
  • Obes Rev. 2014 Jun;15(6):453-61.
  • Scisco JL, Muth ER, Dong U, et al. Slowing Bite-Rate Reduces Energy Intake: An Application of the Bite Counter Device. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 111, Issue 8, August 2011, Pages 1231—1235.
  • Shah M, Copeland J, Dart L, et al. Slower eating speed lowers energy intake in normal-weight but not overweight/obese subjects. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 Mar;114(3):393-402.
  • Shah M, Crisp K, Adams-Huet B, et al. The effect of eating speed at breakfast on appetite hormone responses and daily food consumption. J Investig Med. 2015 Jan;63(1):22-8.
  • Stites SD, Singletary SB, Menasha A, et al. Pre-ordering lunch at work. Results of the what to eat for lunch study. Appetite. 2015 Jan;84:88-97.
  • Viskaal-van Dongen M, Kok FJ, and de Graaf C. Eating rate of commonly consumed foods promotes food and energy intake. Appetite, Volume 56, Issue 1, February 2011, Pages 25—31.
  • Wilson DR and Dillard D. Mindful Eating: Body, Mind, and Oxytocin. Beginnings. 2015 Feb;35(1):6-9, 24.
  • Zhu B, Haruyama Y, Muto T, et al. Association between eating speed and metabolic syndrome in a three-year population-based cohort study. J Epidemiol. 2015;25(4):332-6. doi: 10.2188/jea.JE20140131. Epub 2015 Mar 14.

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