Consumers Paying More Attention to Food Labels, Nutrition

USDA research finds American adults are eating more nutritious foods and consuming fewer calories

Published on: Jan 17, 2014

American consumers are paying more attention to nutrition information and eating better overall, according to a new report out Thursday from the USDA Economic Research Service.

The report, Changes in Eating Patterns and Diet Quality Among Working-Age Adults, 2005-2010, also shows that Americans are consuming fewer calories from fat and saturated fat, are consuming less cholesterol and are eating more fiber.

A contributor to better diet quality, says Jessica Todd, report author and USDA economist, is reduced consumption of food away from home among working age adults.

Her research found that calories consumed through FAFH dropped by 127 calories per day during 2007-2009, and the average person ate three fewer meals and 1.5 fewer snacks per month away from home. Eating at home more often was also associated with more frequent family meals.

USDA research finds American adults are eating more nutritious foods and consuming fewer calories
USDA research finds American adults are eating more nutritious foods and consuming fewer calories

Overall, about 20% of the improvements in diet quality can be attributed to the decreased FAFH consumption, Todd said.

"I saw the quality of both food at home and food away from home increase," she said, noting that individuals were more likely to be paying attention to and use nutrition information when shopping for food, as well.

Nutrition facts panel utilized more frequently

Specifically, the research found that 42% of working age adults and 57% of older adults reported using the Nutrition Facts Panel most or all of the time when making food choices.

When asked about nutrition information in restaurants, 76% of working-age adults reported that they would use the information if it were available.

Related: FDA Proposes Eliminating Trans Fat in Processed Foods

"Information is a core foundation of how people are going to make their decision," noted Sam Kass, White House senior policy advisory for nutrition policy. "The nutrition facts panel is the most important place that consumers are getting their information, and the FDA is currently working on, and is close to releasing a proposal, to update that panel for the first time really since 1970s."

Kass said nutrition panel information hasn't in the past received a major overhaul geared toward helping consumers make better choices and understand the information, but the FDA proposal hopes to change that.