Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Consumer Attitudes about Diet and Health

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There seems to me to be a disconnect between health and nutrition messages and the consumer based on some recent reports I have read. In other words, consumers say one thing but in practice may not follow through with the appropriate actions.

First, it is important to see what consumers are saying about food and heath.  Recently, the 2011 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation has been published and here is a Summary of Key Findings.

Information Sources and Influences

  • Taste and price was the most prevalent responses when it came to how consumers were influenced when purchasing food and beverages.
  • Americans would rather hear what to eat instead of what not to eat – food experts take note!!
  • As far as where they get their information, most were only familiar with the Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid, and said they used the Nutrition Facts panel on food packages.

Dietary Components

  • 88% said they thought that functional and fortified foods impacted their overall health.
  • Many remain confused about the types of dietary fats they consume.
  • More than half are trying to limit their consumption of sugars.
  • Nearly two-thirds acknowledge that protein is necessary to build muscle (only exercise builds and protein maintains), and the same amount were not that familiar with plant protein sources (soy, beans, nuts, seeds).
  • About half are concerned about sodium intake.
  • A majority thinks that food colors are in part responsible for hyperactivity in children

Food Safety

  • About half are confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply, but do not have the same confidence in imported foods
  • About half feel that foodborne illness is the most important safety issue.
  • Eight in 10 knew food safety practices, but the number of them actually practicing then are declining, e.g. washing hands with soap and water before handling food (70% in 2011; 89% in 2010; and 92% in 2008).

Restaurant and Eating Occasions

  • Again, taste and price are most important when choosing foods in restaurants.
  • When ordering, overall health ranked higher than calorie concerns.
  • Seven in ten believe that calories on menus would help with food selection.
  • On average, Americans eat about 8 meals a week with their families

Calories and Energy Balance

  • Only 9% can accurately estimate how many calories they should consume in a day.
  • Most American do not keep track of calories consumed or calories burned.
  • 70% believe that both physical acitivty and monitoring food and beverage consumption are equally important in weight management, but only 54% report actually using both strategies.

Weight Management

  • Americans are less concerned with their weight than in previous surveys.
  • Over half consider themselves overweight or obese and are trying to lose weight.
  • One in five Americans with a BMI in the overweight or obese category consider themselves as “ideal” or “underweight”.
  • Most trying to lose weight are not seeking support from others to help manage their weight, but of the ones who do, most turn to family and friend for support.

Overall Health

  • More Americans (about half) perceive their overall diet as “somewhat healthy” than in previous years.
  • A majority of Americans are still making dietary changes; fewer report making these changes in 2011 (59% compared to 64% in 2010).
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One thought on “Consumer Attitudes about Diet and Health

  1. Thanks for giving us the survey results. Very interesting that Americans would rather hear what to eat rather than what not to eat. Makes sense.


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