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Is Going Out for Lunch a Thing of the Past?

Fewer Americans are going out to eat during their lunch breaks
lunch / Shutterstock

Going out for lunch is a costly habit that many Americans have cut back on.

If you’ve found yourself chained to your desk at work and skipping out on going out for lunch, you’re not alone — market research group NPD found that Americans made 433 million fewer trips to restaurants during lunchtime in 2016 compared to the amount of trips taken in 2015. The decline in going out to eat for lunch reached the lowest it has in four decades, which means it raises concerns not only for the restaurant industry, but also for the health of working Americans.

The trend indicates that more and more people have been opting out of stepping outside to eat and have been eating lunch at their desks, or maybe not at all.

“I put [restaurant] lunch right up there with fax machines and pay phones,” Jim Parks, a sales director who used to eat out for lunch almost every day but has recently changed his ways because of a busy schedule, told The Wall Street Journal.

Contributing to the trend is the fact that the cost of eating out for lunch adds up and is not necessarily budget-friendly. While restaurants have raised prices, grocery prices have dropped, making “brown bag” lunches more appealing.

“Consumers are buying fresh foods, from supermarkets, and eating them at home as a replacement for eating out,” Tom Hayes, chief executive at Tyson Foods, said.

However, for those that skip out on the meal altogether, there are health risks to be wary of when sitting at a desk all day. According to NPR, researchers have found that while regular exercise is good for your health, it may not be enough to counter being sedentary at a desk for a majority of the day.

As Stephen Blair, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at the University of South Carolina, told NPR, scientists have found that "people who sit more have less desirable levels" of cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides, which can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.

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