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Dissecting the eating out patterns in Europe

Eating out is becoming a daily habit in Europe. Researchers investigated why Europeans eat out and the nature of their dietary intake.
Dissecting the eating out patterns in Europe
Modern living has led to an increase in eating out and is often associated with unwise dietary choices and imbalanced nutrient intake. An unhealthy diet can contribute to the increasing prevalence of diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Eating out is especially popular among adolescents who need guidance on how to follow a healthy diet. However, little information is available regarding the frequency and eating out choices in Europe.

The main objective of the EU-funded ‘Eating out: Habits, determinants and recommendations for consumers and the European catering sector’ (Hector) project was to investigate the eating out patterns among European populations. Various aspects of eating out were analysed, including lifestyle, socio-demographic characteristics and types of food consumed. The project developed a framework that allowed the monitoring and assessment of eating choices in 15 European countries through Individual Nutrition Surveys (INS) and Household Budget Surveys (HBS). An active network of nutrition specialists was formed in an attempt to understand the observed eating out behaviour across Europe and to promote healthy alternatives.

The Hector project developed the first central database specialised on food consumption out of the home in many European countries. Through data analysis, this database provided an excellent means of assessing eating out patterns and helped researchers derive results among European populations.

Additionally, project partners developed tools to increase awareness on healthy eating and to inform the catering sector how to improve the quality of their food.

Overall, the Hector project represented a unique attempt to join the scientific community, consumer associations and catering-related enterprises in order to understand the characteristics and determinants of eating out patterns in Europe. Study findings are expected to significantly enhance the quality and safety of out of the home food choices.

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