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Survey: Americans Confused About What's Healthy Food

Survey: Americans Confused About What's Healthy Food

Consumers say they would like more information about what they should eat

May 26th, 2012 by Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs in News

Is it possible that obesity is the problem it is because American just don't know how to eat properly any longer?

It doesn't seem likely since children are supposed to learn about nutrition in school and government agencies have been offering guidance for decades. But the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation's 2012 Food & Health Survey offers some intriguing results.

First, it found that most people think a great deal about the healthfulness of their diets and want to make improvements. Yet an overwhelming majority confessed to not really knowing what to eat to be healthy and maintain a healthy weight.


Seventy-six percent said that ever-changing nutritional guidance makes it hard to know what to believe. And when it comes to making decisions about food, consumers today rely most often on their own research rather than third-party experts.

Six out of 10 Americans have given a lot of thought to the foods and beverages they consume and the amount of physical activity they get. Yet, only 20 percent say their diet is very healthful and 23 percent describe their diet as extremely or very unhealthful; less than 20 percent meet the national Physical Activity Guidelines.

"This year's Survey was designed to reveal consumer behavior, not just thoughts and desires. Clearly, there is a disconnect for many Americans," said Marianne Smith Edge, Senior Vice President, Nutrition and Food Safety, IFIC Foundation. "Some questions also reveal clear differences based on gender and age.

Gender differences

For example, men feel it is harder to eat a healthful diet than to find time to exercise, while women feel just the opposite. Older respondents tended to value a healthy diet while younger people did not.

The Survey found that 90 percent of Americans have given at least a little thought to the ingredients in their food and beverages. Consumers say they are trying to eat more whole grains, fiber and protein, while cutting calories, sugar, solid fats and salt.

However, 87 percent said the most important factor in the food they choose is taste, followed by price, which dropped significantly as a factor compared to 2011, and healthfulness. In terms of trying to lead healthier lives, nearly 60 percent of Americans believe that online and mobile tools are helpful.

While 55 percent of Americans said they are trying to lose weight, 23 percent of obese consumers and 44 percent of overweight consumers say they are not trying to lose weight.

Fewer than one in 10 U.S. consumers could correctly estimate the number of calories they need to maintain their weight and only three in 10 believe that all sources of calories play an equal role in weight gain.