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Eating Right Harder to do than Taxes

Another great report has come out of the International Food Information Council Foundation: The 2012 Food & Health Survey – Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Safety, Nutrition and Health. This fascinating survey investigates American’s behaviors and perspectives on nutrition, exercise and food safety. From the perspective of nutrition, what it finds will not be surprising to many in the health and wellness fields: it isn’t just that people are unwilling to eat correctly or are uncooperative, it is generally perceived to be extremely hard to eat right! In fact, it is perceived to be harder to have healthy eating habits than it is to do one’s income taxes. (This is particularly true for men, for those without a college degree, for obese or overweight individuals, and for those with conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure).

According to the survey, which included over one thousand Americans ages 18-80, most Americans give a lot of thought to their diet and exercise, and 9/10 describe their health as good or better – higher than in previous years. (Interestingly, this reflects CDC data showing improved health of the nation). At the same time, most believe there is room to improve their diet and most are trying to improve at least one aspect of their diet.
 
At least according to the survey, Americans are trying to eat better. So, where are the difficulties?
 
Some of the challenges lie in trying to make sense of a great deal of (often conflicting) information. For example, three quarters feel that changes in nutritional guidance makes it hard to know what to believe. One quarter say they try to verify information before they will believe it. Another challenge seen is not knowing simple caloric baselines: what is consumed versus what is required. For example, most Americans are trying to lose weight, yet 1/3 are not sure how many calories they consume or burn. Of those who say they know how many calories they consume or burn, their estimates are suspicious. Also, only 1/7 know how many calories they need to maintain their weight.

So what does this mean? From the perspective of health and wellness professionals, one key conclusion is that most Americans are trying to be healthy. (For example, 9/10 give at least a little thought to ingredients in their foods, while 50% give a lot of thought.) The challenge remains providing on-going guidance to help provide and reinforce (sometimes again and again!) knowledge, making education as simple as reasonably possible, and appreciating that most people are in fact actually trying to eat in a healthy way!

 Rebecca Dubowy, Chief Medical Officer


 


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