Gooey chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven. A cool scoop of ice cream flecked with vanilla bean. It’s hard not to yearn for these delicious sweet treats at any time of day. But surprisingly these and other classic desserts are disappearing from the American dinner table.
According to a new report from market research firm NPD Group, just 12% of dinners eaten at home in the United States end with dessert, down from 15% a decade ago. That’s half as much as the highest dessert consumption the NPD Group ever recorded, 24% in 1986. (And it's not just the homemade sweets that are on the decline: another recent study found that purchases of packaged baked goods like pies, cakes, and cookies also dropped by 24% between 2005 and 2012.)
Why? Yes, it could be that people are passing on dessert to save calories and cut back on sugar (which most of us could stand to do). But the more likely—and sadder—reason is that fewer people are actually sitting down to eat at the dinner table each night.
“People don’t have the time for dinner that they used [to],” Harry Balzer, the group’s senior vice president, told The Washington Post. “And dessert is seen as the least important part of the dinner meal.”
Time appears to be the biggest concern, from scheduling a moment when the whole family can make it to the dinner table, to actually making any sweet treats. Plus, Americans are cutting back on the number of different foods they prepare on a given night, Balzer said in a press release. “The trend in American homes is about one-dish meals. Having dessert makes the whole meal more complicated.”
Based on this downward spiral, NPD Group estimates that traditional dessert will be gone forever by 2054 (insert scream face emoji here), though it’s doubtful that sweets themselves will completely disappear, of course.
The problem with this is that when you have a habit of satisfying your sweet tooth only after a balanced, healthy meal, realistically, you're less likely to overindulge because your belly is already nearing full. When you eat a sweet treat as a snack, though, things can easily get out of hand. A reward at the end of the day can also keep you focused on healthy choices during the day: you can pass on the doughnuts in the break room if you know you have a small slice of apple pie waiting for you later.
So, repeat after us: Long live dessert! What will you indulge in tonight?
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