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Top Nutrition Trends for 2008

Survey: Americans Eating More Whole Grains, Vegetables, Fruits
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 26, 2008 -- Whole grains are hot, trans fat is not, and more Americans say they're doing all they can to eat right, according to a new survey from the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

In the survey, 783 U.S. adults dish on their diet and exercise habits. Among the findings:

  • Consumption of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits is up.
  • Trans fat, beef, pork, and dairy consumption is down.
  • More Americans have a good attitude toward diet and exercise and say they're doing their best to eat healthfully.

Here's a closer look at those findings.

Food Trends

Here are the top five foods or nutrients that survey participants say they've increased during the past five years:

  • Whole grains: 56% say they're eating more
  • Vegetables: Half of participants say they're eating more vegetables
  • Fruits: 48% say they're eating more fruit
  • Low-fat foods: 48% say they're eating more low-fat foods
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 38% say they've boosted their consumption

The upward trend in consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is good news, notes ADA spokeswoman Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, PhD, RD, who presented the survey results today in Chicago at the ADA's annual meeting.

"It was encouraging to see those findings," Gazzaniga-Moloo tells WebMD.

Here are the top five foods or nutrients that participants report reducing during the past five years.

  • Trans fat: 56% say they've cut back on foods containing trans fat
  • Beef: 41% say they're eating less beef
  • Pork: 33% report eating less pork
  • Dairy: 23% say they've cut back
  • Low-sugar foods: 20% say they've cut back

Gazzaniga-Moloo says people may be cutting back on beef, pork, and dairy because of cost and the hunt for lower-fat foods. But she points out that "there are lower-fat alternatives within those three foods -- beef, pork, and dairy -- [and that] they do provide an excellent source of certain nutrients," such as calcium, protein, and vitamin D in dairy products, and protein, iron, and B vitamins in pork and dairy.

More People Eating Better

More people are improving their attitude toward diet and exercise and taking action for a healthier diet, according to the survey.

The ADA splits participants into three groups -- "I'm already doing it," "Don't bother me," and "I know I should" -- based on how they answer various survey questions about diet and exercise habits.

Here's how the groups ranked this year and in the ADA's 2002 survey:

  • I'm already doing it: 43% (up from 38% in 2002)
  • I know I should: 38% (up from 30% in 2002)
  • Don't bother me: 19% (down from 32% in 2002)

The shift out of the "don't bother me" category and into the "I'm already doing it" category shows that "consumers are certainly becoming more aware of the importance of balanced and healthy eating, [and] regular physical activity," says Gazzaniga-Moloo.

But there's still room for improvement. "What we would like to see is more of the 'I know I shoulds' moving into the 'I already am'" category, Gazzaniga-Moloo says.

Top Excuses for Not Eating Better

Why aren't people doing more to improve their diets? Here are the top five reasons from the survey:

  • 79% say they're satisfied with the way they eat.
  • 73% say they don't want to give up the foods they like.
  • 54% say it takes too much time to keep track of their diet.
  • 52% say they need more practical tips for healthy eating.
  • 41% say they don't know or understand diet and nutrition guidelines.

Mintel International conducted the survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

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