A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive shows that 64% of US adults consider themselves to be healthy eaters, while 45% say that they follow some kind of health conscious diet.

The authors of the report say that a substantial number of US adults claim that they try to incorporate healthy foods into their meals and snacks, adding that many consumers turn to organic products as a healthier option. 

Age plays a role in diet, the survey revealed, as 75% of people aged 55 and over consider themselves to be healthy eaters, compared to only 47% of those aged 18 to 34.  Income and education also play their part in determining the eating habits of Americans. Seventy-four per cent of those with an annual income above US$75,000 believe that they eat healthily and there is a strong correlation between levels of education and healthy eating habits.   

Majorities of adults say they regularly try to consume healthy foods during breakfast (58%) and dinner (69%), but substantial numbers also make the effort to do so for lunches at home (39%) or at work or school (27%), and while dining out (24%) or snacking mid-morning (15%), in the afternoon (14%) and in the evening (17%).

Anne Aldrich, senior vice president of the consumer packaged goods research practice at Harris, said: “Imagine a continuum with indulgent eating at one end and healthy eating at the other. Consumers with varied lifestyles, age and health conditions touch the continuum at different points throughout the day in different ways: some choose meals and snacks that may be very healthy, while others may not. Many consumer packaged goods companies recognise this continuum and try to provide products that serve their varying eating needs and preferences.”

Half of all adults (50%) say they sometimes buy organic food. Of those that do eat organic, a majority cite the health benefits associated with the absence of pesticides and preservatives as their motivation.

Aldrich concludes: “Growth in the organic foods industry over the last decade is certainly impressive. While produce tends to be consumers’ main pathway into this category, many are now taking advantage of the wide selection of organic foods found in supermarkets and natural food stores. As this industry (which has traditionally been considered an alternative eating style) moves toward becoming more mainstream, there is considerable room for consumer package goods companies to educate consumers about the health benefits of organic foods.”