- Nearly all Americans say they try to eat fruits and vegetables
- Of 15 foods tested, soda, sugar and fat are avoided most
- Gluten-free foods top list of those adults "don't think about" either way
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they actively try to include locally grown foods in their diets, confirmation that the public is embracing farmers markets, community-supported agricultural programs and the "farm-to-table" movement that have all proliferated in the U.S. since the early 2000s. At the same time, majorities of Americans report trying to add vegetables, fruits, poultry and seafood to their diets, while avoiding soda (or pop) and sugar the most among a list of 15 foods Gallup tested.
Gallup has gauged the public's dietary habits using this question on six separate occasions since 2002. While some of the foods tested in the July 23-29 poll have not always been included in Gallup's lists, all have been included at least once before, with the exception of locally grown foods.
Locally grown foods, which are touted as being fresh while also helping boost sales for the nation's farming industry, have become increasingly popular across the country in recent years. A food industry research firm's analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data found that sales of locally grown foods increased sharply from $5 billion in 2008 to $12 billion in 2014 and are projected to reach $20 billion in 2019. Gallup finds that 73% of Americans currently try to include locally sourced foods in their diets, 2% avoid them and 24% don't think about it much.
Although locally grown food is often organic, that distinction appears to matter less to Americans — 47% say they try to include organic foods in their diets, but 41% say they don't think much about whether to include them or not. The current reading for organic foods is essentially unchanged from the 2014 and 2015 readings, the only other times Gallup included them in the list.
Americans' Eating Habits Line Up With USDA Recommendations
The USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans lays out recommendations for healthy eating and suggests incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy, while limiting salt, sugar, saturated fat and soda. Gallup's food list addresses each of these categories and finds that for the most part, Americans claim to be heeding the government's suggestions.
Currently, 92% say they try to eat vegetables, 91% fruits, 86% poultry, 75% fish, 70% grains (the question did not specify "whole grains"), 64% dairy and 63% red meat. Each of these have been mainstays on the core list of foods that majorities of Americans try to actively include.
Soda and sugar have consistently topped the list of foods Americans try to avoid, and in the latest polling, 61% say they avoid soda and 52% sugar.
Recommendations about the dietary benefits of fat, salt and carbohydrates have fluctuated over time, which influenced changes in the public's opinions of them. Currently, 48% of adults say they avoid fat and 41% avoid salt, while roughly the same percentage, 44%, include carbohydrates and 28% say they avoid them. (The only recommendation in the government's dietary guidelines that addresses carbohydrates is the suggestion to include whole grains, one form of carbohydrates.)
Gluten-free foods, which do not contain proteins found in wheat, rye and barley, are the only food type on Gallup's list that a majority of Americans neither include nor avoid, with 59% saying they don't think about them either way. The latest finding that 21% say they actively attempt to include gluten-free foods is essentially unchanged from 2015, the only other time it was included on the list — even though many restaurants have added gluten-free options to their menus in recent years.
Over the past several decades, dozens of diets have risen in popularity in the U.S. Among them have been low-fat, low-carb, gluten-free, high-protein and high-fat diets. This year's U.S. News and World Report rankings of diet plans have the Mediterranean and DASH Diets tied for first place as the best overall plan. Both top-rated diets limit red meat, sugar and saturated fat while encouraging dieters to eat fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
Gallup's latest nutrition data find that most Americans say they try to follow many of these recommendations when making their daily food choices. Indeed, most of the foods with majorities who actively try to include them in their diets have been quite stable over time. Likewise, majorities of Americans have consistently avoided both soda and sugar. These data suggest that Americans are well aware of what they should be eating and avoiding according to nutritional guidelines, but don't confirm how successful Americans are at actually following through on their good intentions.
Meanwhile, the least stable foods on Gallup's list — carbohydrates and fat — have been the source of great debate between low-fat and low-carb advocates. For their part, Americans continue to lean more toward avoiding fat than avoiding carbohydrates.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 23-29, 2018, on the Gallup U.S. Poll, with a random sample of 1,509 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Poll works.