The recently proposed U.S. dietary guidelines indicate that many Americans are pushing themselves to the brink of a nutritional and health disaster as a of result poor eating habits. The federal panel of experts pointed to the lack of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, in addition to the overconsumption of calories, saturated fat, sodium, refined grains, and added sugars, as the primary defects in the average American diet. 


According to What America Eats: Paradigms Shaping Food Choices, a report by market research publisher Packaged Facts, consumers most likely to deviate from this harmful “average” American diet are consumers who exercise more per week and live in more affluent households.

“We found that the amount of weekly exercise is tied to certain food choices. Our results suggest a clear connection between amount of weekly exercise and the tendency to choose certain foods, with choices associated with greater healthfulness correlating to more exercise,” says David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts’ research director.

Most notably, consumers who eat more all-natural proteins compared to a few years ago put in 21% more time per week exercising than the average adult, while those eating less all-natural proteins compared to a few years ago put in 21% less time per week exercising than the average. Similar trends were noted with respect to eating fresh fruits/vegetables, leaner proteins and small portions.

Likewise, survey respondents with $100K household incomes allot the most time per week to exercise—55% more time than the average adult. These high-income adults are also the very consumers most apt to purchase natural, organic and local foods, which can carry higher price. Under the assumption that more calories burned translates to more room for calorie intake, the shift among higher-income consumers to all-natural proteins, fresh fruits/vegetables and leaner proteins could result in enhanced sales that result from fewer inhibitions about purchasing food that they believe is more healthful yet satisfies expectations related to taste and quality.

Beyond trends specifically tied to affluent consumers and frequent exercisers, Packaged Facts finds other positive shifts in American eating habits that bode well for the future. Chief among these is the finding that in 2014, 39% of consumers indicate they are eating less processed food than they were a few years ago. And while consumers are more likely to say they are shifting away from processed food, they say they are moving toward foods/food types that encompass “real foods,” such as fresh fruits/vegetables, locally grown foods, and all natural proteins. A closer look at those who say they are eating more all-natural proteins and locally grown foods finds that these consumers are even more aligned with trends toward clean eating, with large shifts eating more fruits/vegetables and home cooked meals.