Most People Confused About ‘Healthy’ Foods – Finds Survey

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Determining what exactly is ‘healthy’ food can be confusing for all of us and have us scratching our heads.

According to The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2017 Food & Health Survey which surveyed 1,002 Americans aged between 18 to 80 find conflicting advice about healthy foods and many doubt their food choices.

Interestingly, 78% people said that they find conflicting information about healthy foods and 56% of these people say that this conflicting information is the main reason that they doubt their food choices.

“Previously, the Food and Health Survey has shown that Americans feel overwhelmed by conflicting food and nutrition information. But this year, we’re finding troubling signs that the information glut is translating into faulty decisions about our diets and health,” said IFIC Foundation CEO Joseph Clayton

“I think that shows that for at least half of our respondents, this conflicting information was leading to some doubt that made it harder to sort through all the conflicting information,” Liz Sanders, director of research and partnerships at the foundation and a co-author of the survey as told to CNN

She further added, “Americans rely on many different sources of their information when it comes to what foods to eat and what foods to avoid. Not all of these sources are really highly trusted, and it is likely that these sources share inconsistent information.”

Healthy Food Confusion

Most of the respondents, 96% to be precise, seek health benefits such as weight loss, heart health, improved energy levels, immunity and digestive health from the foods they eat and drink.

The online survey which lasted at least 22 minutes and involved 1,002 American adults, almost 60% of the respondents ranked “nutrient composition” as one of the top three factors for a “healthy” food.

Almost 50% respondents ranked foods which do not contain artificial ingredients, additives, and preservatives among the top three factors.

Surprisingly, just 45% of the respondents were able to identify a single nutrient or food associated with specific health benefit. For example, people who wanted to boost energy levels, less than 5% respondents could associate or name caffeine providing energy-boosting benefits. Just 12% of respondents were able to associate omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil to promote cardiovascular health.

The survey also revealed that most people consider health care professionals and dietitians as the most trusted source of diet advice, they still turn to friends and family to make healthy food choices.

Chances are, misinformation and/or conflicting information about healthy foods and nutrition might be playing a role in obesity. According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50% Americans become diabetic or prediabetic by the time they turn 65 which proves that people are confused and not making right food choices.

Not only this, the survey also suggests that Americans might also be paying dearly for making incorrect nutrition decisions.There are many factors which influence the perception of healthy food product such as fresh, frozen or canned, the length of the ingredients list, place of purchase, price among others. These factors drive perceptions of healthfulness even between two identical food products with identical nutrition information.

Many Factors Beyond Nutrition Create a Healthy Halo

There are many factors which influence the perception of healthy food product such as fresh, frozen or canned, the length of the ingredients list, place of purchase, price among others. These factors drive perceptions of healthfulness even between two identical food products with identical nutrition information.

These factors drive perceptions of healthfulness even between two identical food products with identical nutrition information.

According to the survey, more consumers link sugars to weight gain, in fact, one-third of Americans say sugars are most likely to cause weight gain.

With the majority of them trying to eliminate sugars and replacing sweet beverages with water and eliminating certain foods.

Taste, price, healthfulness reign supreme while shopping for food. 84% Of the respondent’s taste is a top (4-5 of 5) driver of purchases. Only 35% say the same for the brand. 55% Of Millennials chose convenience as the top driver influencing their purchase.
With most respondents seeking weight loss and weight management benefits from healthy foods and figures as the most desired benefit, Americans lose interest in weight loss benefits from foods dramatically as they age.

However, the desire for foods which benefit cardiovascular health increases with age.

Other Interesting Findings of the Healthy Food Survey:

46% Americans feel they would get involved in more physical activities if they had an extra 4 hours every week.

25% Americans they would spend on groceries if they had an extra $100 per month with 57% choosing to save & invest.

Americans overestimate their health status with 59% rating themselves in very good or excellent health. In fact, one-third of these people are obese or overweight.

Americans rank brand factor the last while making food and beverage buying decisions behind 84% taste, 66% price, healthfulness 63%, convenience 49%, and sustainability 38%.

58% of consumers, that is six in every ten Americans use the nutrition information at least sometimes to decide what to eat out.

Vitamin D, 88% tops the list of specific components considered to be healthful followed by fiber 87%, whole grains 84%, protein from plant sources 72%, and omega-3 fatty acids 71%.

Download full survey

It is important for everyone to get proper and reliable information about healthy foods which should contribute to a healthy diet. One of the best and most reliable sources of all the information is available with the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It is a gold mine including researchers and expert opinions. So next time you discuss health and food, do cross check before making any opinions.


The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2017 Food & Health Survey, “A Healthy Perspective: Understanding American Food Values,” is the 12th edition of an annual investigation which surveys food beliefs, behaviors, important issues such as confusion, food landscape, diets, health, food production and sustainability, food safety, beliefs and behaviors of Americans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Health Store is coming soon and being tested — no orders shall be fulfilled till launch Dismiss