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Dining Out Poll Reveals Popular Eating and Drinking Habits

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- How many Americans eat at fast food restaurants? How many of them always order dessert when dining out?

Researchers at Monmouth University sought to answer these questions, polling a random sample of  925 adults over the age of 18 to find out their dining preferences.

The poll found that one-third of Americans eat lunch or dinner at fast food restaurants, while 12 percent, or about one in ten, never eat fast food.

Salary didn’t appear to be a factor when it comes to restaurant choice, the poll found, as the participating adults who earn $100,000 were found to be just as likely to eat fast food as those earning less than $50,000.

“For me I thought it was surprising that adults at all incomes are eating fast food,” said Elizabeth Cooner, Assistant Director of the Polling Institute at Monmouth University.

“We don’t’ know what they’re ordering or how much they’re ordering,” said Keith Ayoob,  director of the Nutrition Clinic at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

“Are they going there because it’s a really quick way to get a salad?” he asked, noting the new healthy options that fast food restaurants are offering.

Adults with incomes over $100,000 and recent college grads are also the more likely groups to order a drink when dining out, the poll found.

Twenty-two percent of adults always or often order an alcoholic beverage when dining out, and a little less than half never order one.  Although the adults surveyed were as young as 18, Cooner said that a very small number were under the legal drinking age.

Ayoob says the concern lies in the fact that “young people go out to eat more than eat dinner at home.”   Huge portion sizes and fried food can lead to poor choices, he said.

One in ten diners said they always order dessert, while 42 percent of diners never do.  Diners in the west and southeastern regions of the U.S. are more likely than those in the Midwest to order dessert.

“Portions can vary,” Ayoob said.  ”You don’t know if people are eating the whole thing.  A lot of health conscious people take only a few bites.”

Six out of ten diners were found to be adventurous eaters willing to try anything at least once.

“It did not surprise me that young adults have adventurous palates because there is so much exposure,” said Ayoob, adding that “television channels are dedicated to nothing but food.”

In the only open-ended question in the poll, half of the adults who ate at restaurants preferred Italian, American or Mexican cuisine.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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