Americans Claim Healthier Eating

November 10, 2010

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Large numbers of US consumers claim to be changing the foods and drinks they consume in an effort to eat healthier, according to results of a new Harris Poll.

Eating at Home Often Healthier

Majorities of all adults claim that they frequently or somewhat often eat healthier at home compared to when dining out (79%). In addition, majorities say they drink water as opposed to another type of beverage at meals (74%), choose healthy snacks (72%), eat a balanced diet (72%), read nutritional information on packaged food products before buying it (68%), attempt to eat smaller portions (64%), and exercise regularly (57%).


In addition, only 30% say they frequently or somewhat often eat late night meals.

Not All Healthy Eating Habits Popular

Despite the above results, not every healthy eating habit is practiced by a majority of US adults. For example, only 43% say they frequently or somewhat often limit carbohydrate intake, and 42% make special healthy requests in restaurants. Even smaller percentages choose to sacrifice taste for lower fat or calories (38%), choose restaurants based on availability of lighter options (33%), or keep track of daily calorie/food intake (30%).

Interestingly, response rates of adults who qualify as overweight, obese or morbidly obese by their Body Mass Index (BMI) scores to most of these habits are not significantly different than those of normal weight adults. Obese and morbidly obese adults are significantly less likely than normal weight or overweight adults to say they exercise regularly.

Fat, Whole Grain Most Important

Seventy-eight percent of respondents identified both fat and whole grain as very or somewhat important to managing their diet and weight. Protein (77%) and calories and saturated fat (74% each) closely followed.


Hydrogenated oil was rated as very or somewhat important to diet/weight management efforts by the lowest percentage of respondents (61%), although that figure is still well more than half. Carbohydrates had the second-lowest importance rating (65%), perhaps explaining why realtively few respondents said they are watching their carb intake.

Morbidly Obese Most Realistic

When asked to describe their current weight, morbidly obese respondents displayed the most realistic view of their body. Sixty-one percent of morbidly obese respondents said they are much heavier than they should be, or obese, compared to only 26% of obese respondents. Another 30% of morbidly obese respondents said they are heavier than they should be but generally healthy and content, compared to 55% of obese respondents.


While 52% of normal weight respondents said they are about right, a surprisingly high 31% rated themselves as having a few extra pounds (as did 13% of obese respondents but only 6% of morbidly obese respondents).

The unrealistic assessment of weight by many obese respondents supports Harris analysis which indicates that despite Americans’ assertions they are eating healthier, a continuing rise in US obesity rates suggests in many cases this is untrue.

Obesity Higher among Middle-aged, African-Americans

Middle-aged and African-American adults are more likely to be obese than Americans of other ages or ethnic groups, according to a new data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

According to Gallup-Healthways Daily tracking data collected between January-August 2010, an average of 26.7% of adult Americans are obese, based on their self-reported height and weight. Roughly 3 in 10 Americans aged 45 to 64 are obese, more than in any other age group. More broadly, black Americans aged 45 to 64 are the most likely of any of the racial and ethnic groups used in this analysis, at any age, to be obese, at 41%.


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