WASHINGTON — Seventy-six per cent of consumers agree that changing nutritional guidance makes it hard to know what to believe about nutrition, and 52% of Americans believe figuring out their income tax is easier than knowing what they should and shouldn’t eat to be healthier, according to the International Food Information Council.

IFIC’s 2012 Food and Health Survey also found consumers most often rely on their own research instead of third-party experts when making decisions about food. In addition, 58% of Americans have given much thought to the food and beverages they consume, and 61% have given consideration to their level of physical activity. Yet only 20% described their diet as very healthful and 23% said their diet was extremely or very unhealthful with only 20% meeting national guidelines for physical activity.

“This year’s survey was designed to reveal consumer behavior, not just thoughts and desires,” said Marianne Smith Edge, senior vice-president, nutrition and food safety, IFIC Foundation. “Clearly, there is a disconnect for many Americans. Some questions also reveal clear differences based on gender and age. For example, men feel it is harder to eat a healthful diet than to find time to exercise, while women feel just the opposite. The percentage of older respondents who say their diet is very or extremely healthful is about twice the rate of younger people. These are important distinctions for health professionals and others who are trying to help individuals and families improve their diet and health.”

Other findings of the survey include that 55% of Americans are trying to lose weight, but 23% of obese consumers and 44% of overweight consumers say they are not trying to lose weight. Less than one in 10 Americans correctly guessed the number of calories they need to maintain their weight, and 66% of Americans have given thought to the sustainability of their foods and beverages with about 40% regularly purchasing locally sourced or recycled food and beverage products. Fifty-seven per cent of consumers believe the chances of them getting a serious foodborne illness are extremely low.