Summary Findings

Examining the eating patterns of the U.S. population is key to better understanding the determinants of dietary intake and diet-related health status. An analysis of the time that U.S. residents spend engaged in various activities—and in particular, food-related activities—may provide some insight into why nutrition and health outcomes vary across different segments of the population. Such insights could help improve programs and policies targeted at reducing obesity and improving diet quality.

USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) collected data on U.S. residents’ time use and eating patterns in the ERS-developed Eating and Health Module (EHM) of the nationally representative American Time Use Survey (ATUS). Data in 2022 were collected on secondary eating—that is eating while doing another activity considered primary by the respondent—height and weight, physical activity, self-assessed diet quality and health status, USDA food assistance program participation, grocery shopping, and meal preparation.

On an average day in 2022, individuals aged 15 and older spent 68.5 minutes eating and drinking as a primary or main activity, and 16.4 minutes eating as a secondary activity—that is, while simultaneously engaged in another primary activity such as watching television, driving, preparing meals, or working. The time spent on primary eating and drinking in 2022 was about 5 minutes higher than the average time in 2016. The time spent on secondary eating in 2022 was about 1 minute less than the average time in 2016. Overall, individuals spent almost one and a half hours (85 minutes) eating and drinking on an average day in 2022.

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In 2022, the top 5 named places for primary eating and drinking were:

  • Own home or yard: 77.2 percent
  • Workplace: 9.2 percent
  • Restaurant or bar: 6.8 percent
  • Someone else’s home: 2.9 percent
  • School: 0.9 percent

In 2022, the top 5 named places for secondary eating were:

  • Own home or yard: 60.1 percent
  • Workplace: 15.4 percent
  • Own vehicle: 6.6 percent
  • Someone else’s home: 4.5 percent
  • Someone else’s vehicle: 1.5 percent

In 2022, the top 5 named activities that accompanied secondary eating were:

  • Watching television and movies: 23.6 percent
  • Work, main job: 21.6 percent
  • Socializing and communicating with others: 4.7 percent
  • Playing games: 3.6 percent
  • Food and drink preparation: 3.4 percent

Individuals have 2 peak time blocks for primary eating and drinking—noon to 12:59 pm and 6:00 to 6:59 pm. About 3 in 10 individuals engaged in primary eating and drinking during each of these peak time blocks in 2022. During each hour from 9:00 am to 9:59 pm, 5 percent or more of U.S. residents engaged in secondary eating. 

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In 2022, over half (53.1 percent) of individuals aged 15 and older reported that they usually did a lot or all of the grocery shopping in their households and over one-third (34.1 percent) reported doing a little or some of the grocery shopping. Among individuals that did at least a little of the grocery shopping in their households, almost 2 in 10 (19.3 percent) reported buying groceries online at least once in the last 30 days. Among these past-month online shoppers, 30.2 percent purchased groceries online once, 25.1 percent purchased online groceries twice, and 44.7 percent purchased groceries online thrice or more. Among those that purchased groceries online at least once, about half usually pick up their groceries and the other half usually had the groceries delivered.

In 2022, the top 5 named main reasons to purchase groceries online were:

  • Time constraints: 39.8 percent
  • Convenience: 10.4 percent
  • Physical safety concerns: 6.6 percent
  • Price: 6.3 percent
  • Transportation limitations: 4.6 percent

In 2022, the top 5 named main reasons for not purchasing groceries online were:

  • Like being able to see and touch products in person: 47.4 percent
  • No access to the technology to place an order: 5.4 percent
  • Higher prices online: 4.2 percent
  • Delivery fee: 1.9 percent
  • Do not like missing or wrong items in the delivery: 1.8 percent

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Selected publications with findings and analysis from previous waves of the Eating and Health Module are available on the Documentation page.