In its seventh annual food and health survey, the IFIC – a non-profit association in Washington, D.C. – found some interesting trends and a few setbacks regarding the health of Americans.
A few of the biggest highlights were that taste still reigns supreme when considering food purchases, technology such as mobile weight apps may be the health coach of the future, and conflicting information regarding nutrition has led many Americans to trust themselves when it comes to discerning their health.
The web-based survey included 1,057 participants, and was designed to reflect the American population ages 18-80. The report sought to gain a deeper understanding of consumer behaviors concerning health and food from both from a year to year standpoint, and over a long length of time. Although there was much information presented in this year’s report, here are a few of the most relevant and revealing highlights.
- There’s still confusion regarding frequently-changing information regarding nutritional guidance. In fact, more half of Americans say it’s easier to figure out how to do your own taxes than figure out how to eat healthfully.
- More than half of Americans are trying to lose weight, which was an increase from last year. And 24% of obese Americans aren’t trying to lose weight.
- Despite the common belief that consumers are in good health, most feel there is room to improve their diet. And only one in four conclude the they have a very healthy diet.
- Nearly nine in 10 respondents have eaten more fruits and vegetables in the last year. And three-fourths are trying to cut back on calories, portion sizes, and eat more whole grains.
- Three out of four consumers feel that changes in nutrition guidance makes it hard to know what to believe. And more than 60% believe information that they have researched, meaning that acceptance of health information is through their own, individual trust filter.
- Less than half of consumers understood what source of calories caused the most weight gain, with only 30% believing that all calories play an even role. Forty percent view sugars and carbohydrates as the culprit to weight gain.
- When asked whether it’s more difficult to eat a healthy diet or be physically active, men were more likely to say that being physically active is easier, while more women said it’s more difficult to fit physical activity into their schedule than to eat healthfully.
- While 75% of Americans say they’re active, few consider themselves to be vigorously active; and only 25% are actually meeting the HHS physical activity guidelines with strength training being one of the biggest gaps.
- Six in 10 Americans believe that online and mobile tools can help them live healthier lifestyles. Younger consumers and baby boomers alike are very receptive to these kinds of technology, leading the IFIC to believe they may become the lifestyle coach of the future.
When we asked IFIC Senior Vice President for Food Safety and Nutrition, Marianne Smith Edge, RD, why Americans don’t eat the recommended amount of produce despite knowing they should, she told Diets in Review that one reason may be some vegetables are perceived to be bland in taste. She also said that if fruits and vegetables haven’t been offered from a very early age, introduction to them later in life can be an issue.
The survey also revealed that too much conflicting information regarding nutrition has left Americans confused and unable to pursue their health. Regarding whether this confusion is a true hindrance or just an excuse, Edge said sometimes the message is reaching people who already know the facts, and missing those who don’t.
“Every message is not a one size fits all,” she said. “We may put out some basic information and it may resonate with some and not with others. When we look at some of the message testing, people say they’re trying to do more. But in those who needed to hear the message the most (e.g. the overweight and unhealthy), acceptance was not as high.”
In that case, the better question may be how do we communicate information to help bring clarity to the broader public? And whatever that answer is, says Edge, it still comes down to individuals being able to take personal responsibility – that’s the bottom line.
For the full survey results and other health and safety resources, visit the IFIC website.