What Consumers Really Want When it Comes to Healthy Eating

Whether it’s eating gluten free, following the Mediterranean diet, or being an adherent of Whole30 or Paleo, there is a seemingly never-ending supply of eating patterns and diets to meet every need or desire. While there’s no shortage of eating patterns and diets, few consumers are actually attempting them. In fact, according to the 2017 IFIC Food and Health Survey, a mere 14% of Americans followed a specific diet or eating pattern in the past year.  

Given how much attention these eating patterns and diets receive in the media—both traditional and social—this might come as a surprise. It shouldn’t. These eating patterns and diets get lots of attention, but they’re often perceived by consumers as being hard to follow, intimidating or simply unsustainable in the long-run. 

With the exception of fad diets that are highly restrictive or based on questionable science, following a set eating pattern or diet is a good thing. Even something as simple as reducing the consumption of processed carbs or added sugar while increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables could be considered an eating pattern—and a good one at that. So what’s standing in the way of consumers and a healthy eating pattern or diet to call their own? 

Approachable and realistic guidelines

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When eating habits are extremely restrictive, eating healthy can seem nearly impossible, but healthy eating isn’t complicated—and shouldn’t be made to seem like it is. Rather than completely cutting certain foods out of their diet, like some diets require, it’s more realistic for consumers to make small changes to their eating habits. In fact, most of them are already doing just that. According to the IFIC survey, 80% of consumers said they have already made small changes to achieve an overall healthier diet. 

These small changes are easiest to implement if they come in the form of simple guidelines that are easy to follow and flexible. Guidelines such as drinking more water, reducing sodium intake, eating more fruits and vegetables, eating more foods with whole grains, and consuming smaller portions are both approachable and realistic. They’re so approachable, in fact, the IFIC survey found that over half of all consumers are already taking steps to incorporate these changes into their eating habits.

Small changes and simple guidelines that consumers can follow get them moving in the right direction, build momentum through early successes, and put them on a sustainable path toward their desired health goals. 

Educational information from a trusted source

So where can consumers get these guidelines? The internet is filled with information about eating patterns and diets; however, far too much of that information is inaccurate and has the potential to leave consumers confused, misinformed, and overwhelmed. When adopting healthier eating habits, consumers need to make sure they’re getting their information from a trusted source, such as a health professional. 

Not only are health professionals the most trusted source of consumer health information, they are also experts in their fields and are not easily swayed by trends or fads. Health professionals can provide much-needed context and present consumers with the basic guidelines they should follow in an understandable and actionable way.   

Will consumers ever fully embrace all-encompassing diets and eating patterns? Probably not. But just because most consumers aren’t taking on a complete diet overhaul doesn’t mean they aren’t taking steps toward healthier eating, they just prefer small steps. When it comes to healthy diets and eating patterns, consumers need guidelines that are approachable and realistic that come from a trusted source.