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Healthy Eating Habits Differ by AgeHealthy Eating Habits Differ by Age

April 29, 2011

2 Min Read
Healthy Eating Habits Differ by Age

NEW YORKResults of a new Harris Interactive online poll of nearly 2,500 U.S. adults reveal while consumers are more conscious about health and nutrition, how they put that knowledge to use varies by generation to generation.

Data reveals Americans develop stronger purchasing preferences and habits with regard to healthier choices as they age. Matures (66+ years old) are the most likely of all generations to pay close attention to nutritional facts and translate their health consciousness into behavior, possibly because they are more likely to need to follow a diet with specific restrictions, such as with low salt and sugar. The differences in eating habits among age groups suggest that actual behavioral change may be more driven by necessity than by knowledge.

At least three-quarters of all U.S. adults place importance on fresh (89%), fiber (81%), whole grains (81%), fat content (80%), portion size (79%), calories (77%) and saturated fat (76%) when making food and beverage purchases.  However, specialized nutritional items are rated much lower with 33% and 20% rating gluten and vegan as important, respectively.

At least seven out of 10 of all U.S. adults place importance on consumption of protein (83%), fat (81%), whole grains (81%), calories (80%), saturated fat (79%), sugar (76%), cholesterol (75%), carbohydrates (74%) and sodium (73%) when thinking of how they manage their diet and/or weight. Hydrogenated oils were rated the lowest in importance at 67%.

More than half of U.S. adults (57%) place some type of monitor or restriction on their diet. Sugar and salt are the top two restricted items, with 34% and 32% restricting salt and sugar, respectively.

When asked about broader food-related issues, 71% of U.S. adults rate locally-sourced produce as important when thinking about where their food comes from. Only 42% rate organic as important.

Three quarters (76%) of Matures have a diet restriction, as compared to 58% of Baby Boomers (aged 47-65), 50% of Generation X (aged 35-46), and 51% of Echo Boomers (aged 18-34). Matures are also more likely to curb their salt or sugar intake than any other generational group.

Finally, data reveals awareness is not translating into dietary change for most generations. Among those who rate sugar or salt as important when managing their diet/weight, less than half of these U.S. adults actually restrict their sugar (42%) or salt (47%) intake. The action/awareness gap is even more pronounced when comparing the youngest and oldest generations, where 32% and 31% of Echo Boomers restrict their sugar or salt intake respectively, compared to 67% and 61% of Matures who do.

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