Most Americans are unaware of the nation's new dietary guidelines, but a strong majority of consumers say they would like to see companies offering more health tips on their product labels, according to a new study.
The survey, conducted by Braun Research on behalf of Del Monte Foods, also revealed that most consumers are not eating the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables.
But even though the diets of most Americans remain lacking, the desire to consume 'healthy foods' remains intact, with consumers looking to food companies to help them eat better, says Del Monte.
Out of the companies most often associated with healthy foods, survey respondents ranked General Mills and Del Monte as the top two.
And although the study was based on a small online survey in which 1,000 American adults recorded their perceptions of their eating behaviors, it may well provide some insight into what consumers expect from food companies.
Around 80 percent of respondents said they would like to see food companies taking a more active role in showing consumers how to lead healthy lifestyles, with the same amount saying they wanted companies to offer healthful recipes or health tips on product labels.
Only 41 percent of consumers said they knew about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which set down recommendations for a healthy diet, with only 10 percent consuming the recommended four and a half cups of fruit and vegetables every day, said Del Monte.
"Many Americans want to get serious about eating right- but for some, they don't know where to turn," said Apu Mody, managing director of Del Monte Brands.
Indeed, fruit and vegetables have been linked to health in a number of ways. A recent UK study revealed that eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day can cut the risk of stroke by 26 per cent. And a growing body of research has also linked fruit and vegetable consumption to stronger bones in adolescents and a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer.
But although many consumers know that they should be eating more fruit and vegetables, applying this does not seem to be filtering down into everyday life. Recent studies have shown that the average consumption of people in developed countries is three portions a day.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published in January 2005, recommend that Americans consume two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables per day, for a reference 2000 calorie per day diet. They also advise balancing intake of each of five groups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy and other vegetables) over the course of the week.
The recent survey by Del Monte, which is a major producer and distributor of canned fruit and vegetables, was part of a marketing initiative by the company to encourage healthy eating while promoting its products. This initiative-Del Monte Daily- encourages consumers to eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables daily, with the company publishing recipe ideas and healthful eating tips on its website.