American Adults Embracing Healthier Diets

American adults embracing healthier diets

According to a new United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, American adults are now beginning to purchase healthier foods and consume increasingly balanced diets, while using nutritional information more effectively to make informed decisions on their dietary habits. According to a report published by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, entitled Changes in Eating Patterns and Diet Quality Among Working-Age Adults 2005-2010, American adults are shaving off the calories by consuming fewer foods that are high in fat and cholesterol.

Public Making Better Use of Nutrition Facts Panel

The report explains the results may be attributed to a drive to provide American citizens with better “food choices and diet quality,” since 2009. As part of this initiative, it is suggested that – not only has access to healthy food improved – education and advice on consuming a healthy, balanced diet has enhanced.

In searching for explanations as to how this shift in eating habits occurred, researchers established that information about the nutrition of food products had significantly increased. For example, the use of Nutrition Facts Panel – providing the consumer with knowledge of nutrient information, calorie information and serving sizes – appears to be more widespread than ever. The researchers found that 42 percent of adults that were of employment age, along with 57 percent of older adults, claimed they sought guidance from the Nutrition Facts Panel label when deciding what foods to purchase, either all of the time or most of the time. Meanwhile, 76 percent of employment-age adults stated they would use similar nutrition information in restaurants, assuming it were available.

One of the factors for enhancement of dietary quality involved an apparent reduction in food consumption outside of the home – in fast food outlets and restaurants, for example. According to the study, this accounted for approximately one-fifth of the improvements to the diet quality of American adults.

Between 2007 and 2009, during the recession, the overall expenditure on food from the typical U.S. household declined by five percent, with around a 13 percent reduction in spending on food away from home. Ultimately, this led to Americans consuming 127 fewer calories per day from food eaten outside of the home. When looking at the monthly change to the average adult American’s eating habits during the recession, the research group found that people ate three fewer meals from fast food outlets and restaurants. On this basis, some of the improvement in American diets could have stemmed from the economic turmoil and general cutbacks in household expenditure.

A Change in Public Attitudes and Food Manufacturing Companies

Top 10 foods and beverages consumed in home and away from home
Top 10 foods and beverages consumed in-home and away-from-home, versus the obesity prevalence among adults between the ages of 20 and 74.

However, the researchers also suggest the American public is opting for healthier diets in response to a shift in attitudes. in 2010, more adults reported that they could change their body weight, while food prices played little part in the participants’ food purchases. Jessica Todd of the Economic Research Service briefly discussed these findings in a recent press release:

“When individuals believe that their actions directly affect their body weight, they might be more inclined to make healthier food choices.”

Although, public health experts claim the problems associated with obesity – and the attendant health risks – are far from resolved, they point to a modest change in trends that promote healthier lifestyles. In addition to this, there is greater pressure placed upon food manufacturers and distributors to deliver healthier alternatives. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported that 16 of the country’s major food and beverage companies sold 6.4 trillion fewer calories in 2012 compared to 2007, representing around 78 fewer calories per person, in the U.S., per day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one-third of U.S. adults are obese. The estimated annual medical cost of the condition, in the United States, was estimated to be $147 billion during 2008. During 2012, however, a slowdown in the rise in obesity was noted for most states and a reversal in the rate of childhood obesity across numerous states was also perceived.

By James Fenner

Sources:

USDA
FDA
CDC
RWJF
Wall Street Journal