A Lot of People Are Eating Alone These Days

We love the idea of sitting down to a hot meal with family and friends, but increasingly, Americans are dining solo.

Photo by: Konstantin Sutyagin

Konstantin Sutyagin

We love to break bread together — relish the idea of sitting down to a hot meal with family and friends — but increasingly, Americans are dining solo.

Just shy of half of all adults’ meals and snacks — about 46 percent of them — are eaten alone, according to information compiled by market researchers at the Hartman Group, released in a recent Food Marketing Institute trend report and cited by NPR’s The Salt.

Hartman Group CEO Laurie Demeritt suggests we’re in the midst of a “true cultural change” in which it is becoming “more socially acceptable to eat alone.” Not only has the percentage of single-person households been on the rise in the United States — increasing from 17 percent in 1970 to 27 percent in 2012, according to Census Bureau data cited by NPR — but we’re also a nation of people on the go, grabbing food at our desks, in the car and on the street.

Yet while the ideal of sitting down to three daily meals with other people seems to be fading, the family dinner is not a total thing of the past. While 53 percent of all breakfasts and 45 percent of lunches are scarfed down in solitude, only 24 percent of dinners are. That means more of us are making a point of finding companionship at our evening meals.

"Dinner still has some significance in consumers' lives, in terms of eating together," Demeritt tells NPR.

Given the oft-cited research underscoring the importance of family meals, which have been found to have many benefits for children and relationships, that seems like a lovely bright spot.

Of course, making family dinner happen, especially during a hectic week, can be challenging. Here’s a gallery of quick, family-friendly dinner recipes from Food Network chefs to help make it all a bit easier.

Photo courtesy of iStock
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