Food's on the Table, Just Not All the Time

In the past, a family would sit down to eat together three times a day. In some homes the food was prepared, served and cleared away by servants, although that wasn't the case for most people, and even less so now.

A Harris poll last year showed that Americans are sitting down to eat together less and less, and the younger the person, the fewer the meals they have at the table. In spite of this trend, people still need food, although eating habits have definitely changed. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one of the biggest factors is snacking. In 1977, 40% of the US population didn't snack, compared with only 10% in 2013.

The types of foods people are consuming have also changed. Children are now eating over 300% more salty snacks and almost 200% more candy. At the same time, they are eating 42% fewer vegetables. Meanwhile, sales of specialty foods are on the rise. Bread, dairy, cheese and coffee have all seen a boom over the past few years, but the specialty food that sells the most is snacks, including chips and pretzels.Some of the foods the average American eats are in line with what the USDA recommends; grains, meat and vegetables for example, but this is not so for fruits and dairy.

It seems that as fewer families take their meals together, people are making different choices about what they eat. This is possibly because those choices are not being made for them by whoever prepares the meals.

Meals around the dining or kitchen table have been replaced by snacking, TV dinners and eating out. Restaurant dining is mostly done in mid-price family diners and fast-food outlets. What is difficult to tell is how many of the fast food orders get brought back home to be eaten as a family. In the Harris poll, 9 out of 10 people said it was more important that families eat together than what they eat. At the same time, 7 out of 10 said that having a home-cooked meal was important too.

When a family goes out to eat, they are sitting down together, and restaurant food provides a variety of options, including those for children. When families dine together at home, 4 out of 10 say they have difficulty keeping children at the table. This may be different in restaurants where everyone else is sitting down together.

Today, people have a remarkable range of food choices from all over the world. It's not too difficult to have a nourishing and varied diet all year round. Instead of wondering where their next meal is going to come from, people only have to choose what they would like to eat today.