2010 Food & Health Survey Reveals Diet and Exercise are “Weighty” Issues for Many Consumers

By: Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RD  & Alison Vaux-Bjerke  Date: 7/7/10

Today the International Food Information Council Foundation released its 2010 Food & Health Survey, which examines what Americans are doing regarding eating and exercise, health habits, and food safety practices.  The results show that Americans are highly concerned about their weight.  In fact, weight loss drives diet and physical activity changes more than any other factor. 

The 2010 Food & Health Survey highlights the shift of Americans’ thinking toward awareness of the link between body weight and health.  With the emphasis on healthy eating and physical activity by First Lady Michelle Obama, the messages about the importance of a healthful and active lifestyle that food and nutrition professionals have been preaching for years are gaining momentum in the mainstream.  And the movement will only continue to gain momentum with the release of the government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans expected later this year.

Americans’ Top Efforts regarding Weight Loss and Maintenance
Most Americans (70 percent) say they are concerned about their weight status, and the vast majority (77 percent) say they are trying to lose or maintain their weight.  When asked what actions they are taking:
- 69 percent of respondents indicate they are changing the amount of food they eat;
- 63 percent report changing the type of foods they eat; and
- 60 percent are engaging in physical activity.
- Only 19 percent report keeping track of calories, which can be a tool for those trying to manage weight.

Confusion on All Sides of the Calorie Equation
While Americans express concern about their weight and report taking some action, the concept of calories consumed and burned (AKA energy balance) still leaves most scratching their heads. 
- Only 12 percent of respondents accurately estimate their recommended daily calorie intake for weight maintenance.
- 43 percent don’t know how many calories they burn in a day.
- 58 percent of people don’t make an effort to balance the amount of calories they eat with the amount they burn.
- Only 19 percent of those watching their weight keep track of calories.

Other Key Findings
- 85 percent of Americans have heard of the MyPyramid, but only 29 percent have used it.
- Americans are focused on trying to consume more fiber (72 percent) and whole grains (73 percent); they are less focused on dietary fat than in previous years.
- 53 percent of Americans are concerned about the amount of sodium in their diet and are more likely to look at the Nutrition Facts Panel for sodium than in previous years.
- Only 89 percent of respondents report washing their hands regularly with soap and water regularly when handling food.
- Taste (86 percent) has the largest impact on consumers’ food and beverage purchasing decisions followed by price (73 percent), healthfulness (58 percent), and convenience (55 percent).
- 73 percent are satisfied with the healthfulness of products offered at their supermarket.

The results of this year’s Food & Health Survey draw attention to the positive gains we have made toward highlighting health and nutrition, but also show where we should focus in the future to ensure Americans have the tools to improve their health through nutrition and food safety practices. The International Food Information Council Foundation looks forward to engaging with you on these topics in the coming months.  We would love to hear your thoughts.

To view an executive summary and access the full findings, please visit the Food & Health page on www.foodinsight.org.