Eating out? An unhealthy habit.

by Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Posted on Dec 1, 09:28 PM in and . No comments.

Eating out? Lunch on the run, bought at the work canteen or grabbed from the vending machine? How often do you eat “out of the home”?
In the last decade, we have been eating out of the home more and more. The traditional home cooked meal at the dining table is in danger of becoming a thing of the past. Eating “out of the home” is something that is on the rise in all ages groups with adolescents being the ones to do so the most.
Many factors have resulted in our eating out more often. These include increased choice and availability of food and food establishments, reduced cooking skills, altered working hours and practices as well as the increase in numbers of working mothers.
But is eating out of the home so bad? It’s nice to have the wonderful choice of foods available to us and especially nice to have the treat of eating out on occasion.
Unfortunately, for many people these days, it isn’t just on occasion.
And it can be a problem.

A newly published systematic review looking at studies into eating out of the home has found that eating out of the home was strongly associated with an overall higher total calorie and fat intake. It also found that eating out of the home was associated with a lower intake of micronutrients, particularly vitamin C, calcium and iron. It seems then that the more you “buy out”, the more likely it is that you will have a calorie and fat rich diet that is poor in nutrients.

So what are some of the issues with eating “out of the home”?

  • Often these meals can be fast food choices which are high in fat and calories
  • Portion sizes tend to be much greater than the ones served at home
  • There is no control over cooking methods or added ingredients, such as fat or salt
  • People are more likely to let their guard down and choose “unhealthy” foods as eating out is seen as a “treat”
  • There is more of a chance of eating extras such as entrees and desserts
  • If alcohol is taken with a meal, this may encourage us to eat more
  • Some foods or drinks contain hidden calories for example high calorie syrups in coffees or fatty dressings in sandwiches or salads
  • Pre-prepared meals are likely to have lost some of their vitamins
  • Vegetable portions may be small or non existent

If you are regularly eating away from home, it might be a good idea to try to reduce the number of times a week you do so. Try to take a packed lunch instead of falling into the trap of buying out. If you are in a situation where it might be necessary to eat out, try to watch what you choose and consider your portion sizes.
You could improve your health and who knows, you may even save some money!


Lachat C, Nago E, Verstraeten R, Roberfroid D, Van Camp J, Kolsteren P. Eating out of home and its association with dietary intake: a systematic review of the evidence. Obes Rev. 2011 Nov 23.

Tags: Eating Out

About the author

Anne Myers-Wright

Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Anne is a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered dietitian (RD), an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD- Australia), a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and of The Dietetics Association of Australia.


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