We’re used to hearing bad news about the country’s poor diet and appetite for unhealthy foods. But according to experts at the Calorie Control Council, a non-profit association representing the low-calorie food and beverage industry, Americans are making a shift in the right direction. Here are five positive points about the way we’re eating today.
1. Increasing app-etite. More and more people are using smart phone applications to help them get a handle on what—and how much—they’re eating. And for good reason: A study by Kaiser Permanente found that recording diet food and beverage intake can double the number of weight lost on a diet plan. “People like the convenience of an app for tracking their diet food and weight loss, and love that it can be personalized,” says registered dietitian Theresa Hedrick, nutrition communications specialist for the Calorie Control Council. One diet food app we love: Weight Watchers Mobile, which allows you to track your points and weight and search for restaurants and recipes, among other things.
2. Food with benefits. Heightened awareness of the relationship between diet and health has increased the demand for “functional” foods. These include diet foods fortified with health-promoting additives, such as added fiber in your bread. “Sales of foods and beverages with added benefits and health claims are becoming more popular as consumers spend more time weighing food and beverage options for both price and nutrition,” Hedrick says. While stricter regulations for diet food claims are needed, some of these diet foods can be especially beneficial for people lacking in certain vitamins and nutrients. For example, if you’re lactose intolerant and must avoid dairy products, that calcium-fortified OJ is going to do your bones some good.
3. Counting calories. Although times are tough, and it’s easy to run to McDonald’s for a cheap meal, it looks as though people are looking for lower-calorie foods. “82 percent of American adults consume low-calorie and sugar-free foods and beverages to reduce calories and cut back on added sugars in their diets,” Hedrick says. “That number will increase as more low-calorie products and recipes are introduced to the public.” Reduced-sugar and reduced-calorie juices, yogurts and breakfast cereals are among the most popular choices.
4. Going natural. The bad news: The FDA has yet to provide a clear definition of “natural,” so the term can be misleading on diet food product packaging. The good news? People are reaching for natural products more and more, a sign that they are concerned about their health. “New products with natural claims have been hitting the marketplace fast and furiously. There’s more now than ever to choose from,” Hedrick says.
5. Keeping it in the family. In part due to the economy and perhaps for health reasons, people are choosing to cook and eat at home more often. “There will be a focus on nutritious, easy recipes that can get to the table quickly, but still bring the family together on a budget this year,” Hedrick says. Family mealtime has the added benefit of helping people “diet” since meals made at home are generally healthier than those from a restaurant. She adds, “Simple lifestyle changes, such as increasing fruit and veggies by one serving per day, cutting out 50-150 calories per day by eating one less cookie, choosing a diet soda or low-cal beverage, and exercising 10 minutes here or there, can make a big difference in 2012—and hopefully for life.”
RELATED: Experts' Top Health Apps