The 2013 IFIC Foundation Food & Health Survey: What Consumers Tell Us

For the past eight years, the International Food Information Council Foundation has conducted the Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health.  This national, web-based quantitative study is designed to gain insights from Americans on important food and health-related topics. Historically, the Survey has explored a number of new focus areas building on findings from previous years, providing a timely and accurate account of the current food and health environment.

Consistent with previous years, this year’s Survey indicates that Americans perceive their overall health to be at least “good,” with the majority reporting that they are trying to lose weight. There was an increase this year in those who report trying to maintain their weight and a decrease in those who say they are not doing anything regarding their weight. The majority of Americans are doing something regarding their weight and they recognize that losing weight is difficult. Interestingly, slightly more than half of Americans agree that they would rather lose $1,000 than gain 20 pounds.

While most recognize that there is room to improve the healthfulness of their own diets, Americans tend to believe that their diet is still more healthful than that of their peers. Additionally, few agree that they belong to the most healthful generation in America.  Survey respondents report the following regarding their diet and health:

  • Average grade for the healthfulness of one’s own diet: “B-minus”
  • Grade given to the average American’s diet: “C-minus”
  • 17% strongly or somewhat agree that their generation is the healthiest generation in America

In efforts to improve the healthfulness of their diet, the vast majority of Americans are trying to eat more fruits and vegetables; cut calories by drinking water, low- and no-calorie beverages; eat more foods with whole grains, and cut back on foods higher in added sugar. It is generally the older population (those over 50 years of age) who are more likely to have been taking these actions for more than a year, while younger Americans are more likely to have begun taking several of these actions in the past year.

Nine out of ten Americans think about the number of calories they consume, while nearly 40 percent of Americans report thinking “always or often” about the calories they consume.  In fact, only 10 percent say they never think about calories.  Those Americans who think about calories believe that multiple resources would be helpful in their efforts to keep track of how many calories they consume.  The resources that are perceived as being most helpful include: showing the number of calories on menus; having the calories listed on the Nutrition Facts panel; showing the number of calories on the front of the package; and showing the number of calories contained in recipes.  Fewer people find websites and smartphone apps with calorie counting tools to be helpful, and those people are more likely to be women, consumers under 65 years of age and those with a higher income.  Regardless of this interest in calories, only three out of ten Americans recognize that all sources of calories influence weight gain equally.

Despite the fact that Americans believe their diet is more healthful than that of the average American, they do recognize room for improvement.  Efforts are being made to improve their diet and many have been making these efforts for more than a year.  Check back in the August issue to learn more about consumers’ control over the healthfulness of their diet, their level of physical activity and their weight.  In September, Food Insight will provide highlights on consumer safe food handling practices.

For more insights from the IFIC Foundation 2013 Food & Health Survey, including the Executive Summary, person-on-the-street videos, infographics and a podcast featuring IFIC Foundation Senior Vice President, Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RD, LD, FADA, please visit www.foodinsight.org/foodandhealth2013.aspx