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Are Americans' Eating Habits Improving?

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) just released the results of its ongoing Nutrition and You trends survey. More than 750 adults were asked by phone about their habits and beliefs regarding diet and nutrition, and the findings are interesting. Here are some highlights:

The survey asked, “On a one to seven scale, how important is diet and nutrition to you personally?” The overall percentage of those who said it's “very important” held steady from the ADA’s 2008 survey (67 percent in both years). But many more women than men (73 vs. 59 percent) say they believe diet and nutrition are “very important.”

In response to, “Are you doing all you can to achieve balanced nutrition and a healthy diet?” 49 percent responded yes (up one percent from 2008).

When asked if their consumption of several different foods had gone up, down, or stayed the same over the past five years, between 42 and 61 percent said their intake stayed the same for a number of foods, including dairy products, meat, fruits, veggies, whole grains and fish. Between 44 and 49 percent said they’re eating more veggies, whole grains, fish and chicken, and 22-39 percent say they’ve cut back on beef, pork and dairy products.

And finally the reasons cited for not doing more to achieve a healthy diet and good nutrition included:
I don't want to give up the foods I like (82 percent)

I am satisfied with the way I currently eat (75 percent)

It takes too much time to keep track of my diet (62 percent)

I need more practical tips to help me eat right (47 percent)

I don’t know or understand the guidelines for diet and nutrition (40 percent)

So what does all of this mean? Well, nutrition does seem to be important to most people, but half to three-quarters of the those in this survey seem to think they’re doing great already, even though statistics tell us otherwise. According to other data, the majority of Americans struggle with weight issues, 75 percent don’t eat the recommended minimum intake of fruits and veggies, roughly 90 percent don’t hit the mark for whole grains, and most eat too much refined sugar and sodium.
Some think that people surveyed by phone tend to fib a bit (kinda like knocking 5 or 10 pounds off your weight when you have to write it on a form), and others think that people really do believe they eat healthier than they actually do, a topic I wrote about recently here.

What do you think? If most Americans aren’t eating ideally, why do you think 75 percent say they're satisfied with the way they currently eat? Please share your thoughts! 

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.


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