As adolescents mature into young adults, increasing time constraints due to school or work can begin impacting their eating habits in a negative way. In a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers observed that while young adults enjoy and value time spent eating with others, 35% of young men and 42% of young women reported lacking time to sit down and eat a meal. They further noted that eating on the run was related to a higher consumption of unhealthy items such as fast foods and a lower consumption of many healthful foods.
The participants were asked whether they enjoyed eating with friends or family in social settings, whether eating regular meals was important, and whether they felt they had to eat on the run due to time pressures. Regarding dietary balance, they were asked about their intakes of fruits, vegetables, dark-green and orange vegetables, whole grains, and soft drinks during the previous year, as well as their consumption of fast food during the previous week.
The results suggest that perceived time constraints may be a common barrier to sitting down for meals. Social eating was associated with greater intake of several healthful foods and with higher intakes of calcium and fiber among males. In contrast, eating on the run was associated with higher intakes of soft drinks, fast food, and fat and with lower intake of several healthful foods among females.
Nicole I. Larson, PhD, a dietitian and researcher at the University of Minnesota, wrote, "The findings of this study suggest there is a need to address the influence of perceived time constraints on the eating and meal behaviors of early young adults. ... Having few shared meals and frequently 'eating on the run' were associated with poorer dietary intake. ... As most young adults indicated they enjoy and value time that is spent eating with others, it may be beneficial for health promotion strategies targeting young adults to address the management and reduction of individual time barriers to having regular, shared meals."