(WASHINGTON, DC)—More than half of Americans (56 percent) say they are trying to lose weight, and a majority of them say they are trying to improve the healthfulness of their diet and increase their level of physical activity. Yet, nine out of 10 Americans do not know how many calories they should consume in a day.
The conflicting findings on calories represent just one of six consumer “diet disconnects” found in the second annual Food & Health Survey conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation. The survey of 1,000 American adults was conducted over three weeks in February and March of 2007.
“This survey is an important snapshot highlighting the gap between Americans’ desire to have a more healthful diet and the reality of converting this desire into day-to-day behavior. We call these gaps ‘diet disconnects,'” said Susan Borra, IFIC Foundation president and registered dietitian.
The “diet disconnects” revealed in the annual look at consumer attitudes on food, nutrition, and health include everything from carbohydrates and dietary fats, to how consumers link nutrition and physical health, to what they consider the most important meal of the day.
“Uncovering these ‘disconnects,'” said Borra, “is the first step to really helping consumers achieve an overall healthful lifestyle.”
The six “diet disconnects” include: (video)
1. Calories: Easier eaten than counted? Seventy percent of Americans who said they are trying to improve the healthfulness of their diet reported they are doing so in order to lose weight.
*But, only 11 percent of Americans know the number of calories they should consume each day. This is consistent with findings from one year ago.
2. Diet & Exercise: Both at once? A clear majority of Americans (84 percent) reported being physically active, for health benefits, at least once a week.
*But, nearly half (44 percent) of Americans who report being physically active say they do not “balance diet and physical activity” to manage their weight.
3. Breakfast: Does it come too early in the day? Ninety percent of Americans agree that breakfast is an important meal to achieve a healthful diet.
*But, less than half of Americans (49 percent) report eating breakfast every day.
4. Fat Chance: Which are the good ones? Consumers’ concern about the types and amounts of fats they include in their diet is up from a year ago (72 percent vs. 66 percent) and they are specifically trying to consume less trans fat.
*But, consumers are unclear about which fats are healthful. For example, Americans report trying to consume less polyunsaturated fats, one of the fats recommended for health benefits.
5. Carbs: Where do they fit in an overall nutrition plan? Consumers are getting the message that specific types of carbohydrates can improve the overall healthfulness of their diet. Specifically, more than 70 percent of consumers say they are trying to consume more carbohydrates like fiber and whole grains.
*But, more than 50 percent remain concerned with the amount of carbohydrates they consume, which is not surprising given the past attention to fad diets that promoted decreased consumption of carbohydrates.
6. “Functional Foods:” Can you pass the additional benefits, please? Consumers agree that consuming specific foods and beverages can provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. These benefits include improving heart health (80 percent); improving digestive health (76 percent); and improving physical energy or stamina (76 percent).
*But, more than 50 percent of Americans say they currently do not consume foods or beverages that deliver these benefits.
In addition to these key areas of nutrition, the survey included questions regarding consumer attitudes on caffeine and health, hydration, and athletic performance; as well as low-calorie sweeteners and their role in weight management.
“Since the science concerning food, nutrition, and health is continually evolving there is an ongoing need to provide clarity,” said Borra. “Our survey shows that there is an opportunity for all of us in the nutrition field to make diet information more understandable for consumers.”
The IFIC Foundation plans to continue to monitor these trends and report the results of the Food and Health research every one to two years.
For a PDF copy of the entire survey visit: http://www.ific.org/research/foodandhealthsurvey.cfm.