Frequency and Time of Day That Americans Eat: A Comparison of Data From the American Time Use Survey and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Since 2003, the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) has collected detailed information about how Americans spend their time by asking respondents to identify primary or main activities they were engaged in over a full 24-hour period, including eating. This means that the ATUS misses “secondary” eating occasions that occur while an individual is otherwise occupied doing something else that is considered to be primary, such as working or watching TV. The Eating & Health Module (EHM) was designed to collect these secondary eating occasions and was included as a supplement to the ATUS during 2006-08 and again in 2014-16. This report compares the number and timing of eating occasions reported in the 2014-16 ATUS-EHM to those reported in the dietary intake component of the 2013-16 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is considered to contain the best available data for estimating average daily dietary intake among the U.S. population. Findings show that the EHM reduces the gap between the ATUS and NHANES with respect to the total number of eating occasions during the day, as well as the share of people reporting eating during each hour of the day, but overall the ATUS-EHM does not capture as many eating occasions as NHANES. When the analysis excludes more easily forgotten eating occasions—that is, drinks and snacks—from the NHANES data, the ATUS-EHM data capture 93.1 percent of all eating occasions reported in NHANES.

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 Record created 2019-08-20, last modified 2020-10-28

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