In its 2020 State of Healthy Eating in America Study, 32% of millennials (compared to 25% Gen Z, 18% Gen X and 9% Boomers) said they feel "especially pressured by their friends/peers to eat healthy" while 70% of Americans responding said that they feel like the best version of themselves when they eat a healthy diet.
Many linked eating healthily to improved social lives, with one in five respondents saying that healthy eating is key to living their best social life, according to the study.
"Nearly half of Americans are worried about incorporating enough fruits and vegetables in their diet. They said that when they’re unable to get fruits and vegetables, they are not the best version of themselves.
"Again, millennials are singled out, feeling the most peer pressure around healthy eating, as 32% said they feel looked down upon by friends for non-healthy eating (compared to 18% average of all Americans)," noted Del Monte.
Parents feel the pressure
The worry around eating healthily is greater among parents, who worry not just about providing healthy food, but also establishing good eating habits with their kids. According to the study, 80% of parents feel responsible for developing good eating habits in their children and 76% of parents find it important to eat healthily to set good examples for their children.
Other concerns that rang true for nearly half of parents included worrying that if their children don't consume enough fruits and vegetables they will not achieve their full potential as well as feelings of failure as parents if their child does not eat a healthy diet. Nearly one-third of parents worry that if their children don’t eat a healthy diet, they will have trouble at school.
"Despite the best of intentions, the stress of shopping for healthy foods for their kids gets in the way of their ability to education them. Eighty percent feel responsible for developing good eating habits in their children, yet only 68% make it a priority to teach their children about eating habits and 59% teach their children about healthy eating by taking them grocery shopping. Why the gap?
"Over a quarter of parents find shopping for healthy food for their children to be a significant stressor in their life," said Del Monte in the study.
Confusion around healthy eating sources
While 86% of Americans said that eating fruits and vegetables is crucial to maintaining a healthy diet, they have varying views on what is considered healthy. When asked if different types of foods were healthy, top categories were fresh (78%), clean-label (62%), or organic (61%), while frozen (19%) and pre-packaged (13%) were listed among the lowest.
The stress continues in where Americans look for healthy sources of fruits and vegetables - 1 in 3 people agree that they feel overwhelmed by all the different food labels when looking for healthy options, according to Del Monte.
"Part of this stress could be caused by perceptions around where Americans are looking for healthy food options and their sources of fruits and vegetables. People overwhelmingly said the fresh produce section (96% healthy foods, 95% fruits and vegetables) and the frozen foods aisle (85%, 76%), and less identified the canned foods aisle (74%, 64%) and bulk food aisle (62%, 44%)."
A healthy eating knowledge gap?
According to Del Monte Foods' consumer survey, over one-third of Gen Z (36%) and millennials (35%) believe they were never taught how to find healthy food options. Around 40% of Gen Z (compared to 31% of millennials; Gen X, 24%; Boomers, 17%) do not feel they know enough about nutrition to ensure they maintain a healthy diet.