Consumers struggle to exercise diet control, survey finds
by Monica Watrous
WASHINGTON – Lose $1,000 or gain 20 lbs? More than half of Americans would part with the cash, according to findings in the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s “2013 Food & Health Survey.”
While 90% of consumers believe that managing a healthy diet and physical activity is possible, 65% are actually exercising that control, according to the survey. A lack of willpower, dislike of exercise and a perceived high cost of healthy food were identified as the top barriers to weight management.
“Our findings clearly reveal a control gap when it comes to nutrition and health,” said Marianne Smith Edge, senior vice-president of nutrition and food safety for the IFIC Foundation. “People think it’s quite possible to control their weight, diet and level of physical activity, yet many are falling short in their own lives and recognize that it’s easier said than done. It’s important for all of us to recognize the gap and work on countering the barriers.”
Just over half of survey participants reported they were trying to lose weight. Four out of 10 think about calories often or always, and more than half indicated a desire to see calorie counts on restaurant menus. Eight out of 10 consumers admitted they eat more healthfully at home than in restaurants.
Eating more fruits and vegetables, aiming for a balanced diet and cutting back on sugar and junk food top the list of ways Americans think they should improve their diet.
Nearly half of consumers said they think about the ingredients in food and beverage selections. Calories are most often considered, followed by whole grains, sodium, fiber, sugar and protein. About 6 in 10 strive to consume more fiber, whole grains and protein, and half or more try to limit salt, sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, saturated fats and trans fats. Fifty-seven per cent of consumers try to eat more protein, while 7 out of 10 strive to limit their fat consumption, and 6 out of 10 try to avoid sodium. Half or more try to cut sugars or high-fructose corn syrup.
Consumers prefer positive messaging regarding a healthful diet, with three in four agreeing they would rather hear what they should eat rather than what they should avoid.
Still, taste remains the top driver in food and beverage purchases, followed by price, healthfulness and convenience.
Regarding food safety, 7 in 10 consumers are somewhat or very confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply, but confidence levels have dropped since last year’s report.
The survey was conducted on-line in April and involved 1,006 consumers, whose ages ranged from 18 to 80. Results were weighted to match U.S. Census data based on age, education, race and ethnicity and region.
To read the full report, go to foodinsight.org