What do you feel like eating tonight? Chances are, the answer is Italian.
Italian food is the most popular ethnic food in the United States, but Mexican food is gaining rapidly with a 10 percent surge of adults naming it their favorite, according to data in the journal Food Technology, which is published by the Institute of Food Technologists.
Proof positive we like our ethnic food: There are more U.S. Chinese restaurants than McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King combined. While 75 percent of American adults eat dinner at home, only 33 percent are preparing it themselves. The majority are eating restaurant take-out, be it Chinese, Italian or another kind of food. In fact, more people are picking up food from a restaurant than are sitting down and dining in the restaurant.
In 2005, the average American ate 80 meals at restaurants, a drop of 18 percent from 1985. But over the same period, the selection of take-home meals rose 72 percent to 57 meals a year. And while restaurant take-out climbs in popularity, supermarket take-out is also a major player. Forty-two percent of adults are purchasing supermarket take-out each month--a 12 percent surge in the past two years.
Here are some other interesting food trends:
-Four of 10 restaurant-chain chefs think portion size will be a new major trend. More than 3 in 10 expect comfort foods, such as meatloaf, macaroni and cheese or pot roast, to be a driver.
-No-fat and low-fat foods have slimmed to single-digit growth, but it's still a $32-billion segment--more than twice the size of the widely acclaimed organic foods category.
-Coffee is the No. 1 consumed breakfast food. Fully 53 percent of Americans begin their day with a cup of java. Now quick service restaurants are bringing designer brands to their menus.
-Vegetable consumption is falling by 2 percent, but fresh fruit is rebounding after 14 years in decline. Fresh fruit is the No. 1 snack of kids age 2 to 12.