Tuesday, November 15, 2011

America’s Eating Conundrum – Part I

The International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) survey indicates that Americans want to take advantage of the health benefits of food. However, approximately one third of all adults in U.S. are obese, trending to 50 per cent by 2030. It seems like we are experiencing an eating conundrum.

Read On:
Today’s post is the first in a two part series about America’s Eating Conundrum. I would like to address the IFIC survey.

Earlier in the year, IFIC conducted an online survey among one thousand randomly selected adults to measure America’s knowledge about the health benefits of functional foods (foods and food components) that provide benefits beyond basic nutrition. In addition, the IFIC wanted to learn whether these foods are part of the respondent’s diet. Detailed below are some interesting findings:

· A majority of U.S. consumers are confident they have control over their health, 67% “a great amount” and 28 % “a moderate amount.” No surprise, the leading factors that play “a great role” in maintaining and improving overall health were food and nutrition (73%), exercise (63%) and family health history (39%).

· 87% of the respondents agreed that certain foods have benefits beyond basic nutrition, 90% can name at least one food. When asked unaided, Fruits/Vegetables topped the list of functional foods (70%). Fish/Fish Oils came in second (18%).

· Good news! 9 out of 10 people (up from just under 8 in the last IFIC survey) can name as least one food and its associated health benefits (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids for reduced risk of heart disease).

· Respondents indicated that they struggle to incorporate key food components into their diets with the top three barriers to more frequent consumption being: expense, taste and availability.

Candidly, I struggle with the last bullet point. When it comes to eating healthy, I firmly believe it is ultimately an individual decision. Expense, taste and availability should not present any barriers here in America, the land of the plentiful. Conversely, if you want to eat unhealthy, there are no barriers here in America, the epicenter of Fast Foods. Consequently, somehow based on the current obesity statistics, the topic of my next post, apparently Americans make unhealthy choices.

Are you eating healthy?


  1. The study proves we know what's right, but don't always do what's right, so information is not the issue. Perhaps they ought to also study convenience, price, taste, and accessibility to healthy choices. The unhealthy stuff is available, convenient, and tastes good. It's promoted by manufacturers, and priced so that even the poorest families can get lots of it. I find it strange that basic ingredients that contribute to obeisty are highly subsidized. Flour, sugar, corn (the three leading food ingredient groups in the US) are cheap and available as fillers or enhances in a lot of food we eat and things we drink.

  2. I agree that each person is responsible for their eating choices; however, I also agree that to eat healthy it is more expensive and time consuming. Take McD's for example: You can buy a $1 Cheeseburger, but not a $1 salad. Fast and healthy and cheap is still a challenge unless you go to Subway.

  3. So right, Jimmy, and for good reason...because the stuff that's bad for you tastes so good, as already pointed out. Frantic Moms want to satisfy crying children; broke students want to fill their tummies; and millions, despite these stats, remain uneducated about smart food choices. If a burger comes with lettuce and tomato, doesn't that make it alright?

    The first hurdle is in helping Americans see that they need far less food than they consume. Then, perhaps when their brains recover from the mush they've become due to steady diets of salt, sugar and bad fats, they will see the light on better food choices.

  4. Education is the key. Schools used to teach health and nutrition in K-12; most have been scrapped. School lunchrooms used to cook a plate lunch; now a kid can eat pizza every day. Groceries used to sell wholesome food; now see if you can find it in the sea of further processed packaged food. Americans need to be TAUGHT to cook, EDUCATED in what's good for them, and INFORMED with easy, inexpensive recipes. I realize that all these things are available, but are not used by the majority of Americans. I am looking out for MY family...

  5. Hi Jimmy,

    Great article. Comments apply equally to other countries as well. Perhaps if legislators created laws that classified child obesity as a form of parental child abuse and the penalties were high enough to make people sit up and take action to avoid commiting the crime, things might change for the better.



  6. Thank you all for weighing in. It does come down to choice and if the education was in place, maybe starting at home, we would be a leaner society. Wild idea Daniel.

  7. I really would love to know the methodology. All this "knowledge" and "awareness" flies in the face of other data as well as observation. That 95% of those surveyed claim to have control over their health was the first red flag. Perhaps it was the wording. Perhaps the interpretation. Perhaps the context. Looking at the control that people have over their health within the context of healthcare and health coverage, I'd venture to say you'd find a significantly different result.

  8. While education helps, there's no substitute for impacting your decisions via your wallet. Good for you food is more expensive, so people are less likely to choose it.

    What is needed is a free market oriented health care insurance industry where you pay based on your risk factors. If you can save money by living a healthier lifestyle, then you'll eat healthier foods.

    As is demonstrated by obesity trends, our current methods of education and awareness are woefully inadequate to address this crisis. People will truly take charge of their health when it impacts their wallet.

  9. Daniel - I am horrified at the suggestion that our government would be empowered to classify obesity as child abuse. What about video game induced ADD? Is a parent who allows their ADD child to play video games a child abuser?