Ready for dinner?
It’s a simple question but new search suggests that meal times differ significantly depending on where Americans live.
Most households take their evening meal between 5:07 p.m. and 8:19 p.m., according to data from the American Time Use Survey conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics between 2018 and 2022.
The three-hour slot peaks at 6:19 p.m., when the majority of people sit down to eat. But it’s a different story from state to state.
Residents of Pennsylvania generally start their dinner the earliest at 5:37 p.m., data showed. Those in Washington, DC, on the other hand, do not return until nearly 90 minutes later at 7:10 p.m.
Meal times also differ from state to state, with some less densely populated states such as Vermont and Wyoming keeping significantly shorter meal times than states such as Kentucky, Indiana and Arizona.
There doesn’t appear to be a geographic connection between when Americans sat down for dinner
Data shows that most Americans choose to dine around 6:20 p.m., but the time range is wide and differs significantly by state.
States that tend to eat dinner earlier, around 6 p.m., include Maine, Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Alaska, New Mexico, Oregon and Kentucky.
Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas are other states where peak dinner times start at 7 p.m. or later, all clustered in the south.
The average meal time for New Yorkers is 6:41 p.m., with a range from 5:11 p.m. to 8:29 p.m.
Data from the American Time Use Survey is used to shed light on how Americans spend their days, what they do, and who they share their time with.
It is, according to the office, “the only federal survey providing data on all non-market activities, from childcare to volunteering.”
There doesn’t seem to be any specific reasoning behind a correlation between geographic location and mealtimes.
The generally demanding work schedules and commutes of New York and DC residents may explain – to some extent – the relatively late peak dinner times in those states.
DC, which is a smaller place with less variable work schedules, also has a narrower range of meal times than most states.
While it might be tempting to correlate average dinner hours to the number of daylight hours in these states, there doesn’t seem to be a clear pattern.
Unlike dinner, Americans’ lunch times on the map are at roughly the same time each day – between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m.
Unlike other countries, lunch in the United States is, by and large, not an extended eating period, making dinner the longest and longest meal.
A registered dietitian from the Cleveland Clinic says that from a health perspective, there is no ideal time in the evening to eat dinner, but the meal should be eaten at least three hours before bedtime.
In Mediterranean countries, dinner is a leisurely ritual that begins with light snacks and low-alcohol drinks before the sun sets, and heavier dishes later in the evening.
American dinners are also early compared to many cultures and countries around the world.
Famous, in France and Spain, people tend to eat late. In big cities like Paris, it is not uncommon to meet in a formal restaurant at 9:30 or 10 p.m.
In South Africathe three-meal-a-day structure is rigid, and dinner is usually served between 8 and 10 p.m.
In Mediterranean countries, dinner is a leisurely ritual that begins with light snacks and low-alcohol cocktails while the sun is still up, and moves on to heavier dishes around 8:30 to 9 p.m.
According to the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition, from a health perspective, there’s no perfect time to eat your last meal of the day.
“The clock does not determine how our bodies use or store food. There is no research to indicate that it is healthier to eat an early dinner versus a later night dinner,” said the Registered Dietitian at Kayla Kopp Clinic.
“Whether you’re trying to gain or lose weight, the number of calories you eat really matters, not necessarily the timing of those calories.”
It’s best to “try to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner consistently and regularly every day without skipping meals.”
So it turns out that a set time for dinner is a wise thing.