New American Food Trends and Eating Habits

Concerns about healthy eating and obesity are reshaping both American attitudes and consumption habits.

Concerns about healthy eating and obesity are reshaping both American attitudes and consumption habits. Moreover, constantly shifting consumer perspectives are forcing policy makers, restaurants, and food manufacturers to adapt and, if possible, stay ahead of the trends.

New Trends

Ipsos Public Affairs recently conducted a survey of American adults that revealed four in ten are concerned about their overall health (45%) and about eating healthy meals regularly (43%). The biggest changes in eating habits respondents reported making in the past six months were eating more healthfully in general or watching their eating habits (11%), eating more vegetables (10%), and eating more fruits (9%).

In addition, consumers are responding positively to healthy options. More than half of Americans (55%) say they always or usually opt for a healthy version of a product when they are at a grocery store, restaurant, or fast food outlet. Other hot adopted trends include choosing whole grain (43%), low fat (38%), low sugar (31%), or high fiber (30%) products. Older adults are more likely to opt for healthier options when available, especially low sugar versions of foods (31% of all adults and 45% of those aged 50 or over chose healthier alternatives).

The Road to Healthiness

Not all the news is good: data collected through the poll show some general misconceptions about weight. When asked to rate their health, a majority say they enjoy good health, while only one-third (34%) rate their physical fitness as good. Only 44% of adults perceive themselves as overweight or obese, although more than half (52%) could be classified as overweight or obese based on body mass index calculations.

Only one quarter of Americans report losing weight as the health issue they most want to improve, followed by those who report general fitness or more exercise (15%) as their goal. Groups more likely to report losing weight as the main thing they want to improve include residents of the South (29%), those aged 40 to 49 (32%), and obese individuals (42%). Groups more likely to report general fitness or more exercise as the health issue they most want to improve include those aged 19 to 29 (19%) and those with a household income of $50,000 to $75,000 (20%).

The study was conducted on June 28-30, 2005, among 1,029 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of +/-3%. Another syndicated study conducted by the Public Affairs team, the 2005 Annual Report on Childhood Obesity in the U.S., looks further into adult's and children's expectations of American food service providers, food and beverage manufacturers, government, schools, and parents, as well as opinions on how these groups can help children achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

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