Americans are Switching from “Eating out” to “Eating in”

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Health, finances and family time are driving consumers to Cooking Shows and the Internet

My passion is to educate as many people as possible with critical life lessons that involve nutrition and health-generating foods.

Americans have increased their work time by nearly a month—167 work hours per person, per year, according to Richard Wrangham, Harvard anthropologist and author of Catching Fire. Since 1967, Americans have been spending more time at work and less time in the kitchen. As a result, meal preparation has fallen to a mere 27 minutes a day; and the number of McDonald’s restaurants, per capita in the U.S., is now the highest in the world. As obesity approaches epidemic proportions and as the economy takes its toll, consumers are grasping the wisdom of a home-cooked, family meal.

“People want to know how to save money and, at the same time, eat healthy,” states Eric O’Neill, founder of “Twenty-eight percent (28%) of consumers don’t even know what they’ll eat 2 hours before dinnertime. They’re tired after work and they want help, not only in knowing what to cook that is cost effective, time efficient and nutritious; but how to cook with the safest and most time-effective techniques. People are also becoming more health conscious,” continues O’Neill, who keeps his hand on the pulse of the country’s eating habits. “They want to know how foods can stem from or affect diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity; and how to build nutrition into their daily diet without spending a lot of time or money.”

O’Neill’s life revolves around food preparation and nutrition. His father, Chef Dominic O’Neill of The Sous Chef, recognized as the first accredited culinary arts "on line classes", was inducted into the Arizona Hall of Fame in 1996 and nominated as the National Culinary Arts Teacher of the Year in 2000. Eric followed in his father’s footsteps with his first entrepreneurial culinary project when only eight. By the time he was 18, Eric was professionally known as “The Renegade Chef”. He has also provided nutrition, dietary and culinary advice to personal trainers—how to advise their clients to stick to their diets but be nutrition conscious at the same time. He worked with the Sous Chef for five years, then creatively adapted the Sous Chef software to manufacture The Smart Kitchen™ Touch Screen, currently available at the luxury kitchen store, Valcucine in Beverly Hills, known as “the kitchen home store for the stars”. is Eric O’Neill’s recent entrepreneurial endeavor. Currently in the financing phase, is scheduled to launch the first half of 2010 as an online, modified version of The Sous Chef, which is considered the leading educational cooking tool used in over 1300 institutions and culinary schools around the world, as well as Air Force One, The Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and other elite members of the private sector. “There are 59,000,000 culinary enthusiasts in the U.S.,” states Eric. “My passion is to educate as many people as possible with critical life lessons that involve nutrition and health-generating foods.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, for the past 40 years, food production in this country has been increasing faster than the population. During 2009, restaurants will provide more than 70 billion meals and snacks; and on any typical day, more than 130 million individuals will be foodservice patrons. Startling as they are, these statistics represent a steady decline from previous years. According to the NPD Group, a leading market research company, overall restaurant traffic as of May 2009 fell 2.6% from the previous year, the steepest decline since 1981, while visits from individuals aged 18 to 24 dropped a whopping 8%. Despite these declines, the average American will purchase 202 restaurant-prepared meals this year.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared eating out a major cause of obesity, which is reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S. America’s death toll due to obesity is higher than any other nation—more than Mexico, German, Spain, Austria and Canada combined. “By 2010, 50% of children and teens are expected to be overweight. By 2020, as many as three-quarters of adult women and 70% of adult men are expected to be overweight or obese,” states Sam Sylvetsky with Global Sales in his publication, “Health and Wellness Food Trends in the Western United States”.

Consumers are beginning to equate healthy eating with eating at home, however. At the same time, nutrition is becoming a major concern, with 53% of adults now conscious of and making strides to control their diet—61% for weight reasons, 36% to control cholesterol, 22% for blood sugar, 18% for high blood pressure, and 14% for diabetes, according to Liz Sloan, President of Sloan Trends and Solutions. Over the next 10 years, as 31 million Americans reach the age of 65, and the last of the 76 million baby boomers enter their 60’s, the demand for condition-specific foods is expected to soar.

Because obesity, health-specific needs and economic concerns are now compelling Americans to cook healthy at home, cookbook and food magazine sales are skyrocketing, along with high-end cooking tools, according to both Sur La Table and Borders Group, Inc. In addition, The Food Network touts nearly 100 million American viewers; and on most nights, it captures more viewers than any of the cable news channels.

Food websites are also gaining popularity, though they are the relative newcomers to the scene. Soon, new software innovations such as, will be making it easier for family cooks to learn recipes and cooking techniques in the privacy of their own home and on their own schedule. TheSmartKitchen, for instance, will offer the same curriculum that would cost thousands of dollars and years of study at any culinary school. “With the recent consumer food trends and interest in nutrition, people need education more than anything. Convenience and low cost are also critical factors,” adds O’Neill.

“As people eat out less often, we can help revive the great American home family meal tradition,” says Tim Hammonds, President and CEO of Food Marketing Institute. “This . . . provides American families important health, economic and social benefits.” Meals at home carry social benefits for children and the family as a whole. Research shows that children who eat at home with their families are not only healthier, but are superior academic performers and are less prone to substance abuse.

“As a nation, we’ve lost the value of eating at home with the family,” states O’Neill. “Besides the economical value and obvious health benefits, the social gathering of a family in its own home at mealtime should be cherished and enjoyed. With proper guidance, information and the education of healthy, nutritious, low-cost meals, eating with the family can once again be the highlight of every day.”


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Scott Barber
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