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As we gather with friends and family for Thanksgiving, let us pause a moment to consider how rarely Americans take the time to chow down together. Barely half of Americans (54 percent) eat a meal at the table with their family “most days,� according to a survey recently conducted by Ipsos-Insight, a Vancouver, Canada-based market research company. The rest of us pass the salt to ourselves.

While most Americans still eat three times a day, where, when and with whom no longer follows tradition or fits Norman Rockwell's image of America. A majority of 65 percent say they eat a meal by themselves a few days a week or more often. And we often let someone else do the cooking. One-third (32 percent) dine at restaurants at least a few days a week and two-thirds (61 percent) do so at least once a week.

Busy schedules feed our need for speed. No wonder, so many of us are on intimate terms with Styrofoam containers and plastic forks. One-third say they get takeout lunch or dinner at least a few days a week and nearly two-thirds (60 percent) get takeout from a restaurant, deli or food stand once a week or more often. When time is really short, 1 in 4 eat on the run at least a few days a week.

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