Much has been written in recent years about eating alone—the assumption being that most people don't do it, or prefer not to. But according to new research, dining solo—be it at breakfast, lunch, or dinner—is an increasingly commonplace routine in American culture.
"We are eating more and more alone; we are prioritizing non-ritualized snacking over meals; and as household sizes are getting smaller, mealtime ritual is harder to sustain interest in," according to a report by The Hartman Group, a consumer research company that studies trends in the culinary industry. "Alone eating no longer connotes physical and social isolation."
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The report says that 46 percent of "adult eating occasions" are done solo, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, there's less focus now than in previous generations on family mealtimes. That's thanks to television, the increase of dual-working parent households and single-parent households in general, the "snackification" of mealtimes, and changes in the way we shop for food. There's also, according to the study, a change in attitude about how we eat: Many people (43 percent of those surveyed) saw eating alone as a chance to catch up on reading or watch television. Others viewed solo meals as an opportunity to do work or simply have some time to themselves.