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Majority don’t understand what’s on their food’s nutrition labels

A quarter of those surveyed (26%) feel it’s hard to maintain a healthy diet.

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(Photo by Laura James via Pexels)

Two-thirds of Americans claim they’d ignore their taste buds if it meant they’d be healthy (64%), according to new research.

In a poll of 2,000 adults examining what “healthy” food looks like, most respondents said if there were a superfood that had all the nutrients they could possibly need, they’d eat it even if they didn’t like the taste.

The survey found that it can be hard to know just how healthy their meals are for sure since the majority of Americans don’t understand more than half of a nutrition label (54%).

As more understandable terms, respondents shared that they associate language like “low-fat” (49%), “low calories” (47%) or “veggie-forward” (36%) with being “healthy.”

While those surveyed prioritize foods that have the right amount of protein (52%) and carbs (41%) the most, they admit their diet could use more vitamins (35%) and fiber (34%).

Conducted by OnePoll for meal kit brand, GreenChef, results also showed that most respondents believe their diet is at least somewhat balanced (73%), although 51% admit that just half of their weekly meals are “healthy.”

The idea of “healthy eating” makes people feel motivated (46%) and inspired (37%), while others say it makes them feel overwhelmed (34%) and stressed out (29%).

In fact, a quarter of respondents (26%) feel it’s hard to maintain a healthy diet. Why? The cost was found to be the biggest barrier to eating healthy with half of the respondents saying it’s simply too expensive of a habit (50%).

The availability of healthy foods was also found to be a big hurdle for 49% of respondents.

As a result, nearly a third of respondents say the variety of “healthy” food options available is average at best (29%).

Most Americans also agree that their emotions have an impact on deciding what foods they choose to eat (78%).

"While the majority of Americans feel they need to sacrifice taste for healthy eating, there's really no need to make that tradeoff when you use quality ingredients in your cooking," said Luke Esbenson, culinary development manager at Green Chef. "There are so many different ways to prepare and cook well-balanced, nutritious recipes that are also incredibly delicious."

When asked what makes food “unhealthy,” people felt that high sodium levels (45%) and fat content (43%) were the biggest indicators, while only 16% said high-calorie count.

Interestingly, only one in ten respondents (13%) felt an unbalanced meal was unhealthy.

Finding the right balance is key, as 68% said for them, healthy eating requires sacrificing some of their favorite foods and a similar percentage agreed that sometimes, there are comfort foods worth eating even if they don’t have significant nutritional value (62%).

Men may be more likely than women to cave into those comfort food cravings — 68% of men agreed that there are potentially “unhealthy” comfort foods worth eating, compared to 59% of women.

To make healthy eating easier, respondents recommend making a list before shopping (50%), having a positive attitude (45%) and keeping healthy snacks on hand (44%).

"With our study revealing that healthy eating makes people feel both motivated and inspired, it's important to make the process as easy as possible," said Luke Esbenson, Culinary Development Manager at Green Chef. "Using simple strategies like meal kits for planning ahead or even keeping nutritious snacks on hand can help make healthy eating a stress-free experience."

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by GreenChef between Jan. 30 and Jan. 31, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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