Prevalence and patterns of cooking dinner at home in the USA: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2007-2008

OBJECTIVE: To measure the prevalence of cooking dinner at home in the USA and test whether home dinner preparation habits are associated with socio-economic status, race/ethnicity, country of birth and family structure.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional analysis. The primary outcome, self-reported frequency of cooking dinner at home, was divided into three categories: 0-1 dinners cooked per week ('never'), 2-5 ('sometimes') and 6-7 ('always'). We used bivariable and multivariable regression analyses to test for associations between frequency of cooking dinner at home and factors of interest.

SETTING: The 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

SUBJECTS: The sample consisted of 10 149 participants.

RESULTS: Americans reported cooking an average of five dinners per week; 8 % never, 43 % sometimes and 49 % always cooked dinner at home. Lower household wealth and educational attainment were associated with a higher likelihood of either always or never cooking dinner at home, whereas wealthier, more educated households were more likely to sometimes cook dinner at home (P < 0·05). Black households cooked the fewest dinners at home (mean = 4·4, 95 % CI 4·2, 4·6). Households with foreign-born reference persons cooked more dinners at home (mean = 5·8, 95 % CI 5·7, 6·0) than households with US-born reference persons (mean = 4·9, 95 % CI 4·7, 5·1). Households with dependants cooked more dinners at home (mean = 5·2, 95 % CI 5·1, 5·4) than households without dependants (mean = 4·6, 95 % CI 4·3, 5·0).

CONCLUSIONS: Home dinner preparation habits varied substantially with socio-economic status and race/ethnicity, associations that likely will have implications for designing and appropriately tailoring interventions to improve home food preparation practices and promote healthy eating.


Virudachalam S, Long JA, Harhay MO, Polsky DE, Feudtner C