Consumer nutrition attitudes remain steady

by Keith Nunes
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CHICAGO — A survey conducted by the American Dietetics Association (A.D.A.) shows that despite an increased focus by the government, media and the food industry on the relationship between health and nutrition, consumers attitudes and behaviors have only shifted slightly since 2008, the last time the survey was conducted. In fact, the A.D.A. said the attitudes and behaviors of adults toward nutrition have seemed to level in 2011.

In the survey, titled “Nutrition and you: Trends 2011,” the researchers asked respondents a number of different questions to segment consumers into three groups that represent people’s overall attitudes toward maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. The categories included “I’m already doing it,” “I know I should,” and “Don’t bother me.”

Results of the survey show the percentages of people in all three categories are virtually unchanged from the last survey in 2008, with 42% in 2011 saying they already do it (versus 45% in 2008), 38% saying they know they should (37%) and 20% saying don’t bother me (18%).

“It’s interesting that almost half of those surveyed think they are doing enough, but other indicators show that’s clearly not the case,” said Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, spokesperson for the A.D.A.

Ms. Gazzaniga-Moloo added that historically the “don’t bother me category” segment had been as large as 40% in the mid-1990s, and the “I’m already doing it” category had been as low as 23% in 1993 and did not top 30% until 2002.

“These trends tell us people are increasingly paying more attention to their nutritional and physical activity needs and are feeling content that they are doing what they need to do to eat right and be healthy,” Ms. Gazzaniga-Moloo said.

Respondents also were asked if their consumption of several different foods had gone up, down or stayed the same over the past five years. For the most part, according to the A.D.A., people said their consumption in the past five years stayed the same for dairy products (61%), pork (52%), beef (49%), chicken (49%), fruits (48%), vegetables (45%), whole grain foods (45%) and fish (42%).

Consumers said they had increased their consumption of vegetables (49%), whole grain foods (48%), fish (46%) and chicken (44%). The findings are consistent with the results of the survey in 2008, according to the A.D.A.

“It is good news to see that people continue to eat more vegetables, whole grains and fruits,” Ms. Gazzaniga-Moloo said.

Asked if they had decreased consumption of any of the foods on the list, some respondents said they had cut back on beef (39%), pork (35%) and dairy products (22%).

“Cutbacks on pork, beef and dairy may reflect movement toward lower overall consumption of saturated fats; however, cutting back, particularly on dairy can also reduce people’s intake of calcium and vitamin D,” Ms. Gazzaniga-Moloo said.

Foods consumers said they were most likely to have increased consumption in the past five years included berries, low-fat foods, those featuring omega-3 fatty acids, low-sugar foods and low-sodium foods. Foods or nutrients consumers said they were least likely to increase consumption of were gluten-free foods, food containing trans fatty acids and allergen-free foods.

Participants in the A.D.A.’s survey were 754 adults age 18 and older who were not employed in the food, nutrition dietetics or market research industries. Interviews were conducted in May 2011 by telephone by Mintel International Group Ltd.

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