The MyPlate dietary guidelines, introduced in June by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have not dramatically changed Americans’ eating habits, according to a study by The NPD Group, Reston, Va.
The market research firm has for more than 30 years been tracking the eating and drinking habits of U.S. consumers.
The NPD Group’s study, released Dec. 13, indicates the average consumer comes close to consuming meals as per MyPlate guidelines only about seven days a year – or 2% of the time.
That the MyPlate campaign has not performed miracles in swaying public opinion in six months comes as no surprise to Elizabeth Pivonka, president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Hockessin, Del.
“I wouldn’t have expected changes that rapidly,” she said. “We’ve learned from years of experience that an icon, itself, isn’t going to create all of that change.”
The report’s findings also were no surprise to The NPD Group.
“We know through our ongoing research that consumers are more aware of what constitutes a healthy diet, but we also know that what they say and what they do when it comes to eating are often different,” Darren Seifer, the NPD Group analyst who reviewed the data, said in the report. “Since the MyPlate program was just released, time will tell if it will have an effect on the way consumers eat, but it’s likely to be an uphill battle.”
There are many factors that go into making the decision about what to eat, Pivonka said, and change could take years.
“It’s a generational shift,” she said. “A big reason why we at PBH are so focused on ‘mom’ is that she can make sure her children are starting out eating right.”
The foundation discovered years ago that the elderly eat higher percentages of fruits and vegetables, because they learned to eat them as children, Pivonka said.
While changing Americans’ eating habits may take years, it is time some U.S. residents cannot afford.
“With more than 65 percent of adults in NPD’s nationally representative consumer panel classified as either overweight or obese, the necessity behind change could not be more apparent,” Seifer said in the report.
Compounding the problem, Pivonka said, is that children are born every day to parents who are not eating wisely.
“It’s a never ending battle,” she said.