These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,620 adults surveyed online between September 14 and 20, 2010 by Harris Interactive.
Some of the interesting findings in this poll are:
•Majorities of all adults claim that they frequently or somewhat often eat healthier at home compared to when dining out (79%), drink water as opposed to another type of beverage at meals (74%), choose healthy snacks (72%), eat a balanced diet (72%), read nutritional information on packaged food products before buying it (68%), attempt to eat smaller portions (64%), and exercise regularly (57%);
•However, a note of caution is necessary; some of the responses to this and other questions in the poll may reflect what people think they should be doing rather than what they are actually doing. Even if this is the case, the good news is that many people are either doing or know they should be doing these things to stay healthy;
•While there are some differences in their replies to this question among those who are and are not overweight or obese, the differences are not very large. Most of those who are obese or even morbidly obese claim to be doing the same healthy things that those who are not overweight say they are doing;
•There are many variations in eating habits. Relatively few people are regularly (5 or more times per week) eating a full breakfast (22%), a full or well-balanced lunch (21%) or a full or well-balanced dinner (37%) five or more times a week;
•Here again there are not very large differences in claimed eating habits between the obese, the overweight and those of normal weight;
•When asked what they have been eating and drinking more or less of in the last few months, very large numbers claim to have made many changes in their diet. As in some of the other questions, we believe that that Americans reflect not just what some they are doing but what they think they should be doing. If all the people who claim to be consuming more or less of these foods and drinks actually were, there would have been huge changes in sales for the various items — evidence of which, we have not seen.
•Large numbers of people claim to be eating more fresh fruit (50%), more whole grain items (41%), less white bread (38%), less soda (37%), less processed food (35%), more raw vegetables (34%), less processed meat (34%) and more nuts (30%). Adults who are obese and those who are morbidly obese do not have very different results than that of all adults.
•Large majorities of all adults understand that what they eat is important. More than 70% believe that the amount of each of the following in their diet is very or somewhat important: fat (78%), whole grain (78%), protein (77%), calories (74%), saturated fat (74%), sugar (72%), sodium (67%), carbohydrates (65%), and hydrogenated oil (61%).
Confirming the results of a recent Harris/HealthDay Poll, this new poll finds that many of those who are overweight and obese are not fully aware. Only 61% of the morbidly obese, and 26% of the obese (but not morbidly obese) feel that they are "much heavier than they should be." And 20% of those who are overweight (but not obese) describe their weight as "about right."
When reading the results of this poll, it is necessary to recognize that the country has an "obesity epidemic" with rapidly rising numbers of people who are overweight and obese. There is no good evidence that this trend has stopped or gone into reverse. Given this, it is sensible to conclude, as we have above, that many Americans reflect public aspirations and public knowledge of what they should be doing rather than an accurate report of actual behavior. However, even if this is true there is some good news. Many people know and understand some of the changes in their diet that they should be making. But, as in other areas of behavior change, knowledge alone, while important, is not enough to change behavior.