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IFIC Foundation Releases 2010 Food & Health Survey: Overwhelming Number of Americans Concerned About Their Weight

Weight loss primarily drives dietary change and physical activity according to International Food Information Council Foundation 2010 Food & Health Survey

July 07, 2010

(WASHINGTON, DC) — Most Americans (70 percent) say they are concerned about their weight status, and an overwhelming majority (77 percent) are trying to lose or maintain their weight.  When asked what actions they are taking, most Americans say they are changing the amount of food they eat (69 percent); changing the type of foods they eat (63 percent); and engaging in physical activity (60 percent).  Further, 65 percent of Americans report weight loss as a top driver for improving the healthfulness of their diet; 16 percent report improving their diet to maintain weight.  Similarly, losing or maintaining weight is the main motivator (35 percent) for Americans who are physically active, yet a large majority of people (77 percent) are not meeting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines.

These findings are part of the International Food Information Council Foundation’s fifth annual Food & Health Survey which takes an extensive look at Americans’ eating, health and physical activity habits, as well as food safety practices. 

“Americans are hearing about the importance of weight to their health from a variety of sources, and it appears to be driving healthful changes in their lives,” says Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RD, LD, FADA, Senior Vice President, Nutrition and Food Safety at the International Food Information Council Foundation.  “Even at the highest levels of government, from the White House's Let's Move campaign to the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, there's significant focus on an overweight and obese population, with an emphasis on reducing the amount of calories in the diet and increasing physical activity, but first people need to understand the role that calories play.”   

The Balancing Act of Diet and Physical Activity

Americans continue to show a lack of understanding of “calories in” and “calories out” and their relationship to weight.  For example, when it comes to calories consumed versus calories burned, most Americans (58 percent) do not make an effort to balance the two.  In addition, of those who say they are trying to lose or maintain weight, only 19 percent say they are keeping track of calories, which can be a tool for those trying to manage weight.  

The Food & Health Survey continues to find that few Americans (12 percent) can accurately estimate the number of calories they should consume in a day.  Furthermore, many Americans do not know how many calories they burn in a day (43 percent) or offer inaccurate estimates (35 percent say 1000 calories or less).  

“People need help understanding how to balance diet and physical activity choices to attain a healthy weight, but there is more to the equation” said Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RD, Senior Director of Health and Wellness at the Foundation.  “Small steps toward a healthy weight can equal giant leaps in achieving an overall healthful lifestyle.” 

The Foundation’s 2010 Food & Health Survey captured the thoughts, perceptions, and actions of 1,024 American adults over a two and a half-week period in April and May of 2010. 

Additional Key Findings from the International Food Information Council Foundation 2010 Food & Health Survey include: 

Awareness and Use of Federal Programs such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid

  • Americans have at least heard of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (71 percent, consistent with findings from 2009).
  • Most have heard of MyPyramid (85 percent), but the majority (71 percent) have not used it.

Consumer Perceptions of Food Components included in the Dietary Guidelines

  • More than half of Americans (53 percent) are concerned with the amount of sodium in their diet and more likely to look for sodium content on the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP).
  • Americans seem to be less focused on dietary fat than in previous years, with significant decreases in the number who report looking for total fat on the NFP. 
  • Americans are trying to consume more fiber (72 percent) and whole grains (73 percent).

 Food Safety Practices and Confidence in a Safe Food Supply

  • When asked to what extent, if at all, are you confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply, 47 percent of Americans reported that they are confident or somewhat confident, similar to previous years.
  • Similar to 2009, Americans still have room for improvement when it comes to practicing good food safety at home including:
    • 72 percent (vs. 79 percent in 2008) properly store leftovers within two hours of serving.
    • 78 percent (vs. 92 percent in 2008) wash cutting boards with soap and water or bleach.
    • 89 percent (vs. 92 percent in 2008) wash their hands with soap and water regularly when handling food.

 The Impact of the Economy on Food and Beverage Purchases

  • Price continues to have a large impact on consumers’ food and beverage purchasing decisions (73 percent in 2010 vs. 64 percent in 2006).
  • As in previous years, taste remains the biggest influence on purchasing decisions (86 percent) followed by price, healthfulness (58 percent) and convenience (55 percent).

Consumer Food Shopping Preferences

  • The majority of Americans (88 percent) conduct most of their shopping at a                    supermarket/grocery store vs. a warehouse shopping club (4 percent) or a discount retailer (4 percent).
  • Most Americans are either somewhat or extremely satisfied with the healthfulness of products offered at their supermarket (73 percent). 

The 2010 Food & Health Survey also covers consumer attitudes on protein, use of the Nutrition Facts Panel and other forms of food and beverage labeling, as well as low-calorie sweeteners, caffeine, food additives and colors.

For a copy of the 2010 Food & Health Survey Executive Summary and other resources for journalists and bloggers please visit Media Resources page.  A PDF of the data and full data tables are available upon request by contacting the Foundation media team at 202-296-6540 or media@foodinsight.org

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