Food prepared out-of-home tends to be less healthful than food prepared at home, with a positive association between frequency of consumption and both fat intake and body fatness. There is little current data on who eats out-of-home food. We explored frequency and socio-demographic correlates of eating meals out and take-away meals at home, using data from a large, UK, population representative study.
Data were from waves 1–4 of the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2008–12). Socio-demographic variables of interest were gender, age group, and socio-economic position. Self-reported frequency of consuming meals out and take-away meals at home was categorised as: less than once per week and once per week or more. Analyses were performed separately for adults (aged 18 years or older) and children.
Data from 2001 adults and 1963 children were included. More than one quarter (27.1%) of adults and one fifth (19.0%) of children ate meals out once per week or more. One fifth of adults (21.1%) and children (21.0%) ate take-away meals at home once per week or more. There were no gender differences in consumption of meals out, but more boys than girls ate take-away meals at home at least weekly. The proportion of participants eating both meals out and take-away meals at home at least weekly peaked in young adults aged 19–29 years. Adults living in more affluent households were more likely to eat meals out at least once per week, but children living in less affluent households were more likely to eat take-away meals at home at least once per week. There was no relationship between socio-economic position and consumption of take-away meals at home in adults.
One-fifth to one-quarter of individuals eat meals prepared out-of-home weekly. Interventions seeking to improve dietary intake by reducing consumption of out-of-home food may be more effective if tailored to and targeted at adults aged less than 30 years. It may also be important to develop interventions to help children and adolescents avoid becoming frequent consumers of out-of-home food.