With impending changes in the political climate, many people have been asking what this means for the future of food policy. Do political leanings dictate views on controversial food issues like organic produce and genetically modified foods? Who do Americans trust when it comes to food science and the policies that develop from research studies? Well, the Pew Research Center recently conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,480 adults in the United States asking Americans exactly what they think about organic food, GMOs, and the importance of healthy eating. Though the whole report is fascinating (read it if you can!), here are a few interesting points that jumped out at us.
- Americans are paying more attention to healthy eating, but don’t necessarily change their habits. About 54% of Americans say that people in the U.S. pay more attention to eating healthy foods today than they did 20 years ago. However, 54% of Americans also say that eating habits today are less healthy than they were 20 years ago. So, what’s the problem? Roughly 24% of Americans believe the issue is what people eat, while only 12% say the trouble is how much people eat. A majority (63%) say that quantity and quality are equally big problems.
- Americans believe they can control their future health. 72% of Americans agree that healthy eating is important for living a long and healthy life and 71% say that exercise is vital for a healthy lifestyle. However, only 47% believe genetics and hereditary factors determine longevity and health.
- More Americans claim to focus on taste and nutrition than on convenience. About 75% of Americans say the statement “I focus on the taste sensations of every meal” describes them very well (23%) or fairly well (53%). And 73% say the statement “my main focus is on eating healthy and nutritious” describes them very well (18%) or fairly well (55%). However, fewer people relate to the statements “I usually eat whatever is easy and most convenient” and “I eat when necessary but don’t care very much about what I eat.” Only 12% and 7%, respectively, agree that these statements describe them very well.
- Many U.S. Adults think they could eat better. About 58% of Americans say that “most days I should probably be eating healthier.” Those who say they should probably be eating healthier on most days are also those who characterize themselves as not being focused on healthy eating.
- Younger generations are more likely to identify as mostly vegetarian or vegan. While only 9% of Americans consider themselves strict vegetarians or vegans, 91% say they are neither vegetarian or vegan. However, 12% of adults ages 18 to 49 say they eat mostly vegan or vegetarian diets. This is compared to the 5% of adults over the age of 50. Those who are vegan or vegetarian do not seem to differ based on education, family income, region of the country, or gender. However, there are more liberal Democrats (15%) who are vegan or vegetarian than conservative Republicans (4%).
The U.S. public is increasingly aware of the importance of a healthy diet and proper exercise, but recognition is not enough to change habits. Americans know they are in control of their health, so how do we take them to the next level – actual behavior change? How can brands, government, non-profits, scientists and health professionals work together to create and implement strategies for a healthier America? What about a healthier world? We’re curious to know if these American viewpoints resonate across the globe – or if people in other countries have a different perspective. Stay tuned for more global research in 2017 from Eat Well Global and the Global Alliance for Health & Nutrition Communications to answer these questions and more.
Post by Tina Gowin Carlucci, RDN