04 May 2011

Harris Poll shows reticence to change bad food choices

Here’s a newsflash: U.S. adults have a high level of “health consciousness,” but that awareness doesn’t exactly translate into changing bad food choices, according to the Harris Poll which was conducted over the course of a week last month. Approximately 3000 adults aged 18 and over were polled and though most said they were aware of basic nutritional facts, they were unlikely to actually do something about it.

The poll concludes that “knowledge alone, while important, is not enough to change behavior,” but isn’t that the age old conundrum of human behavior in general? We know what is good for us but yet we find ourselves powerless to make the change. Harris, a leading international market research firm, said that 75% of Americans feel it is important to focus on fresh produce, fiber content, whole grains, fat content, protein size, calories and saturated fat when making food choices. However, only 33% chose gluten free items and a mere 20% said they were strictly “vegan.”

Interestingly, nearly half of Americans limit their sugar and salt intake, yet the rates of Diabetes Type 2 have never been higher in our history as a country. Only 34% limit sugar and 32% limit salt in their daily diets. The group leading the pack in making better food choices is the “mature” category of humans in the 65 and older category probably because they are reminded more often of their own mortality. Only half of the Baby Boomer generation (47 to 65 years old) is willing to change their diets and the Generation X’ers and Echo Boomers are only mildly interested.

Perhaps, the closer we come to meeting the Grim Reaper, the more likely we are to eat better. Whereas, the younger we are, the more likely we are to think we’re “bullet proof” and don’t need to make changes. According to the poll, the younger the respondent, the less likely they are to even contemplate viewing food as important.

“The high levels of awareness indicate that the nutritional initiatives in recent years, such as revisions to food labels and increased interest in obesity programs, seem to be effective in creating a ‘health conscious public,’ however, transforming awareness into healthy habits is the next step,” according to the poll.

It seems that the bottom line for most us is we’ll change if we’re miserable enough to warrant it, but if we can possibly squeak by doing what we want to do, change is a distant thought. Skyrocketing numbers of heart disease, cancer and diabetes should be enough to steer the grocery cart down another aisle besides dairy, wouldn’t you think?

Kathryn Lorusso
Kathryn is a former journalist and English teacher who now counsels and mediates teenage drama on a daily basis in the Dallas, Ft. Worth metroplex. Time away from school is spent cooking up new macrobiotic/vegan specialties, writing various blogs and newsletters and taking as many bikram yoga classes as possible.

Photo credit: TDIV/flickr.com/photos/suckamc and flickr.com/photos/psexypsychic