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Taste, Price Are Bigger Influences in Food Choice than Calories
If you conveniently forget to consider the nutritional content of your food choices – perhaps making taste your top priority – you’re not alone. Most Americans do the same. More important is the fact that most people in a recent survey couldn’t estimate the number of calories they should be eating anyway.
A new survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation asked 1,000 Americans about their habits when it comes to food choices. Taste ranks number one for most (87%), but price is quickly catching up. In fact, the cost of food is the fastest-growing determinant of food choice. In the current study, 79% of people said price affects their food choices, which represents a 15% increase from five years ago.
"The economy seems to be having a significant effect on what people look for when buying food," says IFIC Foundation Senior VP, Marianne Smith Edge. "While Americans will almost always choose foods that taste good first, they’re certainly looking for affordable, healthful foods as well."
A particularly interesting trend mirrors other research that has found that the body image norms in our country are dramatically – and unhealthily – changing. In the current survey, only 50% of the respondents said they were overweight, compared to 57% in 2006. Since we know that obesity rates in the country are climbing, not falling, this drop in self-reported obesity appears due to our own evolving perceptions of body size, with big being the new normal.
While more people in the current survey said their diet is somewhat or extremely healthy now compared to five years ago, more people also report being sedentary, and fewer report trying to lose or maintain weight.
Only 9% of people were able to accurately estimate how many calories they should be consuming every day based on personal factors, like age, weight, height, and activity level. The majority of the respondents admitted not keeping track of calories consumed. The reasons? They varied from "lack of interest, knowledge, and focus" to "extreme difficulty" in doing so.
IFIC Foundation Director Carrie Dooher says that the study’s findings "may indicate that Americans are being less hard on themselves and less critical of their health and well-being than in past years, despite an environment in which improved health and wellness is increasingly discussed from the media to government to the dinner table." But while health and wellness may be discussed more, some studies have brought into question the efficacy of weight loss campaigns, and it’s unclear how effective campaigns focusing on basic food choices may be. More research will need to address this question, since the shift in perspective that Americans are experiencing is not a healthy one.
The IFIC Foundation press release was published May 5, 2011, and can be accessed here.
May 10, 2011