Young Adults and Eating Away from Home: Associations with Dietary Intake Patterns and Weight Status Differ by Choice of Restaurant



      Young adults report frequent away-from-home eating; however, little is known regarding what types of restaurants are patronized or whether associations with dietary intake and weight status differ according to restaurant type.


      This cross-sectional study in a diverse sample of young adults examines sociodemographic differences in the frequency of eating at different types of fast-food and full-service (server brings food to table) restaurants. In addition, this study examines whether associations between away-from-home eating, dietary intake, and weight status differ according to restaurant type.


      There were 1,030 men and 1,257 women (mean age=25.3 years) who participated in Project EAT-III (Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults). Participants were members of a longitudinal cohort who completed baseline surveys at schools in Minneapolis/St Paul, MN, and completed the EAT-III surveys online or by mail in 2008-2009.

      Main outcome measures

      Height, weight, and usual dietary intake were self-reported.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Regression models adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics were used to examine associations between frequency of restaurant use, dietary intake, and weight status.


      More frequent use of fast-food restaurants that primarily served burgers and french fries was associated with higher risk for overweight/obesity; higher intake of total energy, sugar-sweetened beverages, and fat; and with lower intake of healthful foods and key nutrients. For example, those who reported burger-and-fries restaurant use on three or more occasions per week consumed nearly one additional sugar-sweetened beverage per day compared to those who reported burger-and-fries restaurant use on less than one occasion per week. More frequent use of fast-food restaurants that primarily served sandwiches/subs was related to a few markers of poorer diet quality, but unrelated to weight status. More frequent use of full-service restaurants was also unrelated to weight status and related to higher intake of vegetables.


      There may be a need for interventions to promote healthier food choices among young adults who report frequent burger-and-fries restaurant use.
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      N. Larson is a research associate, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      D. Neumark-Sztainer is a professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      M. Story is a professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      M. Laska is an assistant professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.