5 Insights into How Americans View Their Diets

As I dietetic intern preparing for my RD exam this summer, I was excited to participate in the Food and Health Survey Webinar on June 3, 2015.  We typically generalize what we think Americans want to hear about their health, but some of the data can be surprising. Here are 5 of my takeaways from the latest Food & Health Survey:

 

1. Of Americans who rated their health as excellent or very good, 27% were overweight and 28% were obese.  

This really surprised me. Those who are overweight or obese are at risk for a number of co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea and certain types of cancer (just to name a few).  This data shows that those who are overweight and obese don’t see themselves as being in poor health.  It is the job of health professionals to stress the importance of maintaining a healthy weight to prevent development of these diseases.

 

2. To improve healthfulness of one’s diet, 6% of Americans consulted an RD for information. 20% sought out another medical professional.

32% of those polled are using friends and family to improve healthfulness of their diet, and 22% are using a weight loss plan.  Only 26% of those polled consulted a clinical provider. Registered dietitians need to work to reach consumers where they’re at.  Ultimately, RDs may need to have a stronger media presence, both traditionally and digitally, in order reach Americans seeking food and health related information.

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3. Only 39% of those polled believe Americans over 65 who live a sedentary lifestyle need additional protein in their diet.

Unfortunately, older Americans who live sedentary lives are at great risk for protein losses.  This statistic alarms me because if Americans do not understand the need for increased protein for the elderly, caretakers may not prioritize the right nutritional approach.

 

4. 32% of Americans changed their opinion of carbohydrates in the last year. Of those who changed their opinions, 65% believe them to be less helpful as before.

The growing avoidance of carbohydrates is most likely due to the increase in recently headlines about trends like the gluten-free diet (read more about gluten-free diets and health here).  In fact, glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates, is the brain’s main source of fuel.  Carbohydrates play a significant role in a balanced, nutritious diet!

 

5. The number of Americans who believe “people with diabetes can include some foods with sugars as part of their total diet” decreased from 54% to 48%.

As a dietetics student, I know that carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced diet for individuals, whether they have diabetes or not.  The key for diabetics is to control portion sizes and consume a consistent intake of carbohydrates throughout the day.  It’s important that we fight misinformation to help those with diabetes manage their blood sugar.

 

As a future dietitian, I definitely want to keep this information in mind when working with patients. Knowing how Americans are thinking and hearing about food and health can help me educate others and decrease the knowledge gap many Americans have.  You can access the full 2015 Food and Health Report here.

 

Blog by Melissa Ronis, Sodexo Intern.