Download the full report.
- 58% of respondents did not make dietary changes at the start of the New Year.
- Of those (42%) who reported making dietary changes at the start of the year, the top change reported was avoiding or limiting sugar (23%), followed by “clean eating” (19%), a weight loss plan or program (16%), a low-carb diet (15%) and mindful or intuitive eating (13%).
- Of those (58%) who did not make dietary changes, 31% said it’s because they have no interest in changing their current habits, 26% said they don’t make lifestyle changes at the start of the year, and 24% believed they already have healthy habits.
You could say we’re intrigued by people’s attitudes, habits and perceptions about food here at IFIC. And while the start of a new year is often thought of as a fresh opportunity for change, we’ve begun to wonder: How many people actually adopt diet-related changes at the start of a new year? If they do, what changes do they adopt, and are they able to maintain them? We crafted our latest consumer survey to find out.
This survey was conducted among 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18+ at the beginning of February 2020. We wanted to check in after January to see how adherence, challenges, and motivations were affecting respondents’ New Year’s diet resolutions—if they had any.
How many people make dietary changes at the start of the new year?
We began by asking participants if they had made any changes to their eating and/or drinking habits since the start of the new year. Forty-two percent reported “yes” and 58 percent reported “no.” Our results found that men, people who identify as Hispanic/Latinx and people under 45 years old were more likely to make dietary changes compared with women, other age groups, and other races and ethnicities, respectively.
Of those who reported making dietary changes at the start of the year, the top change reported was avoiding or limiting sugar (23%), followed by “clean eating”* (19%), a weight loss plan or program (16%), a low-carb diet (15%) and mindful or intuitive eating (13%).
(*This survey did not provide a definition for clean eating as there’s still no clear way to define this popular term.)
Motivations, maintenance and challenges
Why are people motivated to make changes to their eating or drinking habits? A desire to improve health was the top-reported answer (41%), followed by a desire to change one’s appearance or lose weight (35%), a desire to make environmentally friendly dietary choices (12%), and a desire to take advantage of workplace and/or healthcare incentives (10%).
When it came to maintaining New Year’s diet resolutions, 57% of people reported that one month later they were following their changes exactly as planned. Forty-one percent reported following their changes somewhat as planned, and only two percent reported not following the planned changes at all. According to the survey, men, college-educated people and people under 45 were more likely to follow their changes exactly as planned compared with women, non-college educated people and other age groups, respectively.
Respondents who reported following changes exactly or somewhat as planned were asked why they were successful. Motivation to improve their long-term health was the top response (27%), followed by being very motivated in general (23%) and saying that the changes made sense for their lifestyle (22%). These top responses suggest the possibility that consumers are more interested in adopting feasible habits that support long-term health as opposed to more extreme choices that might yield short-term results but could be less maintainable over time.
We also asked those who have been at least somewhat successful in maintaining their dietary changes about the challenges they experienced in doing so. Several challenges emerged as key factors: stress (17%), time commitment (17%), the restrictive nature of their changes (16%), cost (15%), and being too busy (15%).
What about those who don’t make changes?
Nearly six in ten people (58%) reported not making any dietary changes at the start of the new year. Of those, 31% said it’s because they have no interest in changing their current habits, 26% said they don’t make lifestyle changes at the start of the year, and 24% believed they already have healthy habits.
One thousand online interviews were conducted among adults ages 18+ from February 3–4th, 2020, and were weighted to ensure proportional results. The margin of error was ±3.1% at the 95% confidence level.