By Caryn Donohue
This fall, the ADA, now the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, released its findings from the Nutrition and You: Trends 2011 public opinion survey, marking the survey’s 20th anniversary. While not conducted annually, this survey gives insight into what Americans think about diet, nutrition, and exercise, and what they’re doing about it.
Below you’ll find a summary of key findings.
Who are they?
This past May, 754 adults over 25 years of age were surveyed by telephone via random digit dialing. The majority of respondents were Caucasian (62%), about a quarter were Hispanic and Black/African American (16% and 13%, respectively), and the rest were Asian/Pacific Islander (4%) or any other ethnicity (5%). None of the subjects were employed in the food, nutrition, dietetics, or market research industries, providing a more authentic representation of the average American’s knowledge, opinions and lifestyle regarding nutrition and exercise. Response rate was not reported, but respondents under age 25 were not included, in keeping with previous surveys.
What are they thinking?
Half of all respondents felt they are already doing all they can to achieve balanced nutrition and a healthy diet; of concern because two thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. Thirty-eight percent responded they knew they should do more to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and 20 percent don’t feel that diet and exercise are important to them.
Who’s doing what?
Those who are already doing all they can were typically female, get their nutrition information from magazines, feel that nutrition is personally very important, and were most likely to live in a household where someone is on a diet for medical reasons. The “I Know I Should” group tended to be 35-54 years old, were looking for practical tips on eating better, purchased organic foods and products, and look to the Internet for their nutrition information. Males, married or co-habitating couples, and those with less than a college education were most likely to fall into the “Don’t Bother Me” category.
While the percent of people in the “I Know I Should” category has remained fairly even throughout the past 20 years, the “I’m Already Doing It” category has increased and the “Don’t Bother Me” categry has generally decreased, showing a trend towards consumers paying more attention to their nutrition and exercise levels.
What are they eating?
Consumers reported that they increased their consumption of vegetables (69%), whole-grain foods (48%), fish (46%), and chicken (44%). Meanwhile, consumers cut back on beef (39%), pork (35%) and dairy products (22%), signifying a push towards cutting back on foods typically high in saturated fat.
The ADA noted that although 31% of respondents reported that they increased their consumption of low-sodium foods, indicating an awareness of the risks of too much sodium, the average American still consumes twice the daily recommended amount of sodium.
What are their information sources?
The three most common sources of nutrition information were television (67%), magazines (41%), and the Internet (40%). Not surprisingly, convenience is more important than credibility when it comes to choosing a news source. Registered dietitians and nutritionists were named as “very credible” nutrition information sources (71%), followed by doctors (64%), nurses (54%), USDA’s MyPyramid (42%) and packaging labels and reference/general books (37%).
Why aren’t they doing more?
Trends of “I am satisfied with the way I eat” and “I don’t want to give up the foods I like” continued this year, from the previous survey. Additionally, more people were complaining that it takes too much time to properly track their diet (up 8%) and overall, fewer people want more practical tips (down 5%).
To make healthier choices easier for consumers to grasp, ADA spokes-person Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo recommends that registered dietitians encourage consumers to “stop tracking and start cooking.” Moreover, she believes that if the emphasis in messaging is that “all foods can fit into a balanced diet,” then more consumers will be encouraged to eat well because their favorite foods won’t be completely off limits.
The good news?
Consumers, in general, are actively seeking out information on nutrition and healthy eating, a growing trend since 1991, and they are responding positively to increased attention to the foods they should eat. Additionally, the trend continues that consumers feel that diet and nutrition, as well as physical activity, are important to them personally, with more women than men feeling this way.
For more information, visit: http://www.eatright.org/Media/content.aspx?id=6442465323.