Desserts Are Vanishing From the Dinner Table, But That’s No Reason to Celebrate
It turns out there isn’t always room for dessert.
The NDP Group, a market research firm that tracks the daily diet of 5,000 consumers in 2,000 households, found that fewer Americans are eating cobblers, puddings, pies, and other treats at the end of their meal. In their annual Eating Patterns in America report, the researchers found that only 12 percent of dinners eaten at home in the United States ended with dessert in 2014, the lowest rate in more than 30 years. Just a decade ago, 14 percent of households had something sweet at the end of their supper. In 1986, almost 25 percent of families did.
Not that frightening studies about the dangers of sugar consumption and growing obesity rates have anything to do with the trend. Apparently, Americans are just too lazy or too cheap to indulge their sweet tooth.
“Dessert adds to the effort of making a meal,” Harry Balzer, the report’s author and the NDP Group’s chief food industry analyst, said in a statement. “You have to prepare it and clean up, plus it adds to the cost of the meal. It’s one more thing Americans are learning to do without.”
If families do eat dessert after a meal, they mostly have fruit, cake, or ice cream. But even those are falling out of favor, especially among younger generations. The heaviest sweet eaters are adults over 65.
Although the shift may spell trouble for Betty Crocker, it’s welcome news in a country where more than a third of the adult population is considered obese. The report follows new recommendations by the U.S. government that people should limit their consumption of added sugar to less than 10 percent of daily calories.
Here’s the major caveat of our dessert-free dinners: Americans are still snacking more than ever, and they’re likely getting more sugar than they need from sodas and sports drinks. It doesn’t help that influential figures such as athletes (many sponsored by sports-drink makers) and Warren Buffett (who recently said drinking five cans of Coke a day has helped him live longer) are promoting the habit.
So sure, dessert may be losing its appeal. But a cheaper, more pernicious culprit is sneaking its way to a spot next to the main course, and it’s in Americans’ hands all day long, even when they’re working out.