Good News! We’re Eating Healthier (at Least at Home)

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A new government report reveals that more Americans are eating at home, and their diets are improving.

You can thank the recession, but when the economy started to sour in 2007, Americans stopped eating at restaurants and started to cook more meals at home. And most families have been listening to the onslaught of advice about how to eat healthier, since those meals were also respectably nutritious. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, adults born from 1946 to 1985 who were asked about their diets from 2005 to 2010 consumed fewer calories and less cholesterol and unhealthy fats.

“It’s good news for us,” said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, in a press conference.

Concannon said that while meals at home still make up a minority of the average American’s diet, the trend is encouraging and hopefully represents the beginning of a shift in the way families eat.

(MORE: What the New USDA Rules for Healthier School Snacks Mean for Schools)

Here are some of the notable findings from the report:

We’re consuming fewer calories
Overall, daily caloric intake for most adults dropped by 5%, or 118 calories, from 2005–06 to 2009–10.

We’re eating less food away from home
Food eaten outside the home dropped by 127 calories per day, and Americans ate 53 fewer calories daily from fast food between 2005–2006 (when the most current data was available).

If you’re eating at home, you’re probably having more family meals
Working-age adults living with two or more people or with kids under age 17 reported that they had more meals with their families, and the number of these shared meals that were cooked at home also increased.

We aren’t blaming our genes for our weight
From 2009–10 to 2007–08, adults were less likely to say that being thin or fat was something they couldn’t control. This suggests that people are beginning to take responsibility for their weight and take positive steps toward maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI).

We care more about the foods we buy
More adults said they paid attention to nutrition guidelines when grocery shopping. In 2009–2010, more adults relied always, or most of the time, on the Nutrition Facts Panel and package health claims when food shopping than in 2007–2008. Overall, the percentage who said they used health claims to decide what to purchase increased from 18% to 31% among working-age adults and from 36% to 47% among older adults.