‘Healthy’ foods have most of us confused, survey finds

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Determining what exactly is a “healthy” food has us all scratching our heads.

A new survey suggests that most Americans are confused about what counts as a healthy food choice.

About eight in 10 survey respondents said they have found conflicting information about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid — and more than half of them said the conflicting information has them second-guessing the choices they make, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s annual Food and Health survey, which was released Tuesday.

“I wasn’t that surprised to see that 78% reported that they encountered conflicting information, but our follow-up question to that had, I think, a really interesting data point in it, and that was that about half — so around 56% — say that this conflicting information causes them to doubt the choices that they’re making,” said Liz Sanders, director of research and partnerships at the foundation and a co-author of the survey.

“I think that shows that for at least half of our respondents, this conflicting information was leading to some doubt that made it harder to sort through all the conflicting information,” she said. “Americans rely on many different sources for their information when it comes to what foods to eat and what foods to avoid. Not all of these sources are really highly trusted, and it is likely that these sources share inconsistent information.”

What America thinks is ‘healthy’

The survey involved 1,002 American adults, who completed it online in March. Nearly 60% of respondents ranked being “high in healthy components or nutrients” as one of the top three factors for a “healthy” food.

Slightly more than half of respondents ranked “free from artificial ingredients, preservatives or additives” among the top three factors, and nearly 50% ranked “part of an important food group that I need to build a healthy eating style” among the top three factors.

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