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America's Food Trends

More People Eating Healthy, Eating At Home
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Aug. 26, 2003 -- Put dinner in the microwave: Americans are eating more meals at home these days.

Fast, convenient, healthy (or for the most part attempts at healthy) eating -- that's the food trend that experts see.

A yearly report, published in Food Technology magazine, provides a glimpse at the country's lunch and dinner plans.

Last year, for the first time in a long time, Americans were spending more at the grocery store rather than in restaurants, writes A. Elizabeth Sloan, contributing editor.

Eight out of 10 meals were eaten at home -- but were decidedly not "homemade," she adds.

The top 10 food trends:

1. No-prep convenience foods. Single-serve items -- salty snacks, water, oatmeal-in-a-cup -- were all big winners. Ready-to-eat and frozen main dishes (as well as frozen vegetables) were popular main dishes, and will likely replace homemade in the next five years, says Sloan.

2. More meat and potatoes. "More than ever, America is a nation of meat eaters," she writes. That includes chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, and seafood as well as beef.

The most frequent dinner meal is spaghetti. But a good burger is still the American male's favorite eat-out item (second choice for women), followed by chicken sandwiches and seafood.

Also, sales of those "fresh" frozen, fully seasoned, ready-to-zap meals have skyrocketed, Sloan reports.

3. New-age dairy. Milk is cool, say food trend analysts. New flavors, specialty milks (including organic), and portable sizes have helped boost milk sales by 10% over last year. Portability has also helped yogurt sales -- nearly three-quarters of all households have yogurt in the fridge. Half of it is low fat, Sloan says.

But cheese gets the biggest chunk of the dairy dollar: Americans now eat 31 pounds of cheese a year, compared to eight pounds in the 1950s.

4. The culinary melting pot. Ethnic foods have become an increasingly popular food trend -- with Cajun topping the list, followed by Spanish, French, Japanese, Greek, Middle Eastern, California, Thai, German and Caribbean.

However, two-thirds of Americans say they really enjoy plain American, 63% favor Chinese, 62% want Italian, and 55% crave Mexican or Tex-Mex.

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