There is a vast gap between actual healthy eating and the perceptions of Americans having it. Often, there is an overestimation about healthy eating in people. This is what a new study has unveiled.
The small study presented at the at an American Heart Association conference
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Utah-Salt Lake City tried to evaluate the diet of people who wanted to lose weight. For this, they studied 116 adults and this small study was presented at the American Heart Association Conference recently.
The recruited adults were in the age group of 25 to 58 years. And the study lasted 12 months. Each participant met a dietitian for losing weight. Initially, the dietitians assessed the nutrition of each recruit. Later, they told the recruits to keep a food diary and record all that they ate and drank in a day for a year. Moreover, the participants also had to weigh themselves daily and record it. Additionally, each participant of the study had a FitBit on to track the amount of daily physical activity.
Using self-assessment tool, Healthy Eating Index (HEI), the recruits had to say whether they improved their diet in 12 months time. And their perception was compared with the objective diet quality measurements.
Overestimation about healthy eating
The HEI is a standard tool in research. It compares an individual’s perception of eating habits with the recommendations on diet provided by the USA government.
The study showed that with self-assessment, the study recruits felt that they had improved their diet over the year by an average of 18 points. But objective measurements showed that the improvement was a mere 1 point. Furthermore, only 1 in 10 people could accurately gauge their eating improvement.
Thus, there was an overestimation about healthy eating in most recruits. On this, the study author Jessica Cheng from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health says:
“People attempting to lose weight or health professionals who are helping people with weight loss or nutrition-related goals should be aware that there is likely more room for improvement in the diet than may be expected,”
People know that fruits and vegetables are healthy. But, there is a lot of wrong understanding about other foods. She added:
“Future studies should examine the effects of helping people close the gap between their perceptions and objective diet quality measurements,”
But this study has its limitations. Firstly, it had a small sample size. Moreover, there was an uneven gender ratio with more female participants. It is known that obesity is rampant in the USA and 1 in 2 people want to lose weight every year.
Deepika Laddu, chairman of the American Heart Association’s council on lifestyle behavioral change for improving health factors opines:
“Overestimating the perceived healthiness of food intake could lead to weight gain, frustrations over not meeting personal weight loss goals or lower likelihood of adopting healthier eating habits,”
“While misperception of diet intake is common among dieters, these findings provide additional support for behavioral counseling interventions that include more frequent contacts with health care professionals, such as dieticians or health coaches, to address the gaps in perception and support long-lasting, realistic healthy eating behaviors,”