Survey Finds Many Americans Are Trying to Make Healthier Food Choices

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • In my last sharepost, I offered some data gleaned from the American Dietetic Association’s recent survey, “Nutrition and You: Trends 2011.” I promised at the end of that sharepost that I’d share some additional findings from this very interesting survey. So here goes!

    Views on Importance of Diet and Exercise

    Seventy-three percent of women said diet and nutrition was very important, as compared to 59% of men. Women (65%) and men (61%) voiced a more similar view that exercise is very important.  Interestingly, diet and nutrition became much more of a focus as people aged. For instance, 50% of those ages 18-24 said their dietary choices were important, as compared to 76% of respondents who were 65 years old and older. Nutrition also was more of a focus for those who had completed a higher level of education.

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    The realization of the importance of diet and nutrition has increased in both men and women over time. In 1991, about 40% of men said their diet was important, as compared to almost 60% in 2011. Women went from around 55% in 1991 to more than 70% in 2011. The importance of physical exercise has stayed around 60% for both groups, with the exception of 2008, when less than 50$% of men responded positively to the statement, “Physical activity is very important to me personally.”

    Efforts to Have Balanced Nutrition and Healthy Diet

    After starting off at 44% in 1991, the percentage of respondents who answered affirmatively to the question “Do you feel you are currently doing all you can to achieve balanced nutrition and healthy diet?” dropped to a low of 35% in 1995. Since then the percentage has climbed and has remained fairly stable at slightly below 50% in 2002, 2008 and 2011. The researchers also broke down the 2011 responses by subgroups. Their findings were that more women (52%) than men (44%) responded “yes”. In addition, older respondents (66% of those ages 65 and older), and those with some high school (61%) were more likely to say they were doing all that they could do. Many respondents who had children said they were having difficulty keeping a balanced and healthy diet. The poll also asked participants for their reasons for not eating healthier. The top reasons over the years were that people didn’t want to give up foods they liked and that they were satisfied with the way they currently ate.

    Knowledge and Consumption of Foods

    The percentage of respondents who actively seek information about nutrition and healthy eating has climbed from 19% in 2000 to 46% in 2011. Additionally, consumers are hearing more positive messages about what they should eat. Less than 50% said they believed that body weight is an indicator of a healthy diet. The percentage of people who believe vitamin supplements are necessary to maintain good health climbed from 27% in 1991 to 54% in 2002, before dropping to 42% in 2011.

    The study also polled respondents about their knowledge and consumption of foods. For instance, more than 50% reported hearing about health-related effects of low-fat foods, foods with trans fat, low-sodium foods, low-sugar foods, alternative sweeteners, low-carb foods, Omega-3 fatty acids, and berries. Respondents also reported increasing their consumption of a number of foods and nutrients, including berries (48%), low-fat foods (43%), Omega-3 fatty acids (39%), low-sugar foods (34%), and low-sodium foods (31%). The survey also found that many respondents described increasing their consumption of vegetables (49%), whole-grain foods (48%), fish (46%), chicken (44%), and fruits (41%) over the past five years. 


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    Views about organic foods remained almost the same from 2008 to 2011 with slightly less than 55% reporting that these foods are healthier. Of special note is that 64% of respondents believed that organic whole-grain breads are much healthier than conventional choices.

    Sources of Nutritional Information

    Researchers also analyzed where people get their nutritional information. Sixty-seven percent said they learned about nutrition from viewing television. Magazines were second at 41%, closely followed by the Internet at 40%. Interestingly, over the three year period from 2008-2011, the use of the Internet to learn about nutrition has increased by 16%.

    The ADA survey shows that we’re making good strides in learning more about nutrition, diet and exercise. We just have to find time in our busy schedules to keep putting that learning in to practice!

Published On: October 11, 2011