Hockessin, Del. – New research from the Dietary Guidelines Alliance, of which Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) is a member, shows that most parents don’t fully understand the impact of caloric intake on weight and only 14 percent of parents say they consistently pay attention to the amount of calories that their family consumes each day. Even more alarming, only 9 percent say that tracking their family’s calorie consumption would be easy for them to do.
Just over half of parents, 52 percent, believed that paying attention to calorie intake could impact the health of their family’s diet. However, most parents, 82 percent, believe that serving nutrient-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, can have a positive effect on the health of their family’s diet.
“The fact that most people don’t know what a calorie is or how many they’re supposed to have in a day tells me that consumers still need a lot of information about how to eat healthfully,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO of PBH. “People are getting the message that fruits and vegetables are healthy foods, but we still need to make the effort to educate consumers on basic health concepts like calorie intake, its effect on weight control, and even how fruits and vegetables factor into the equation.”
When asked where they are most likely to pay attention to information about how to eat healthfully, most parents named the grocery store as one of their top places. Pivonka says this offers grocers an excellent opportunity.
“This presents grocery retailers with the opportunity to connect with their customers by providing the healthy eating messages they really need in an environment where they are willing to pay attention.”
She adds that one way to take advantage of this opportunity is to provide calorie comparison charts, recipe cards, informational brochures, and Fruits & Veggies-More Matters® signage in their stores.
“Parents, really all consumers, need more information and education on what healthy eating is and how to help their families eat better. We also know where they want to receive that information, at the grocery store, where they are making decisions about what their family will eat. It makes sense then for retailers to provide that type of information right at point of purchase. That could be in the produce section, it could be near the fruits and vegetables in the frozen food aisle or the canned food aisle, or it could even be in the juice aisle, letting them know the benefits of selecting 100 percent juice instead of juice drinks. It also includes highlighting Fruits & Veggies-More Matters on private label fruit and vegetable products that meet certain nutrient criteria and encouraging suppliers to do the same on product packaging.”
Pivonka suggested that grocery retailers take a look at the tools PBH has developed for their use in the retailers section of the PBH website, www.pbhfoundation.org/retail/partners/retailers/retailmembers.
When asked which health messages would motivate them to make positive diet and lifestyle changes, parents preferred messages that explained the benefit to be gained by making the change, those that explain how to do it, and those that encourage a family effort.
Fruits and vegetables fit the bill here again. There are many benefits to eating fruits and vegetables that can be highlighted, from helping to lower the risk for heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer, to helping control diabetes and weight, even to promote healthy aging. Consumers need help in learning how to cut up and prepare various fruits and vegetables. In-store demos on basic food preparation can help. Finally, to encourage family involvement, suggest bringing children to the supermarket.
Closing the gap between the amount of fruits and vegetables that consumers currently eat and what they should be eating would result in an average of nearly $6 million more in fruit/vegetables sales annually per store. This figure is based on data compiled by PBH using supermarket sales data from FMI and fruit and vegetable consumption data from PBH’s 2010 State of the Plate Report.
“Another great way retailers can provide the healthy eating information their customers are looking for is by putting a link to the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters consumer website, www.FruitAndVeggiesMoreMatters.org, in a prominent place on their own website,” added Pivonka.