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Modern Eating Approaches: More American Consumers Than Ever Are Experimenting With Their Diet

Woman eating saladIn pursuit of their quest for long-term quality of life, America’s consumers are shifting their views on dieting and approaches to eating more healthfully. Nearly every consumer today has some kind of dieting ideology (or system of ideas and ideals) that they currently practice. Whether vegetarian, paleo, flexitarian or gluten-free, American eating habits are much more nutritionally intentional than in a former era composed largely of short-term crash diets, silver-bullet products and eating to “look good.”

We now see more consumers than ever experimenting with their diets. Our Health + Wellness 2017 report finds that more than four in ten (44%) consumers have experimented with some type of diet or eating approach in the past year. As the following chart depicts, the top approach to eating named was low-carb diet (12%) followed by gluten-free (11%) and dairy-free/lactose-free (11%).

eating Approaches in Past 12 Months The types of approaches to eating that consumers have tried reflect, in part, the modern vilification of carbohydrates and the popularity of elimination approaches. However, the diversity of approaches represented also reflects consumers’ interest in finding the right approach for them and even an enjoyment of eating differently. Both Core consumers and Millennials are significantly more likely to have tried a different eating approach than other segments or cohorts (60% and 59% respectively). 

While still a major health and wellness concern, consumers today are more reluctant to claim weight loss as the sole end goal of health and wellness change. Rather, weight loss should be one benefit of a lifestyle that promotes feeling better and having more energy during a longer life.

The key to this lifestyle is a shift in mindset that guides the development of routines to “treat the disease, not the symptoms.”

Contemporary diets are personalized and all about balance, wellness and energy. Wellness and energy are shorthand for feeling lighter, better digestion, reducing inflammation and ultimately feeling good and being happy.

Out With the Bad

Over half of America’s consumers are avoiding or deliberating reducing specific ingredients in their daily diet. According to our Health + Wellness 2017 report, the top five ingredients consumers are actively excluding: sodium/salt – 57%, soda/pop (sugars) – 56%, saturated fat – 56%, high fructose corn syrup (sugars) – 54% and trans fat – 52%.

Consumers continue to avoid markers of processed foods and their key “red flag” ingredients, particularly sugars, sodium and “bad” fats. While sodium is still heavily avoided due to its connection to heart health, consumers also see it as an indicator of “more processed” foods. 

Consumers continue to avoid all types of sugars and sweeteners and are increasingly aware of other types of “hidden” sugars, including natural sweeteners besides sugar. 

Staying conversant with dieting trends and consumers’ approaches to modern eating will no doubt have payoffs down the road for CPG companies, food retailers and restaurant/food service operators since many of the dieting behaviors embraced by active health and wellness consumers are diffusing into the mainstream.

Additional Resource

For more about the significant ways consumers are shifting their views on diet and approaches to health and wellness, purchase the report: Health + Wellness 2017


Food & Beverage Occasions Consumer Package Goods Health & Wellness Retail/Shopper Insights Trends Foodservice/Restaurant


As leaders in the study of American food culture, The Hartman Group has been tracking how Americans shop for food since the 1990s. From one-stop shopping to multichannel shopping to online markets and click-and-collect, we continue to track consumers’ evolving perceptions, needs, habits and relationships with food retailers. New to the 2017 report is a special section on the expansion of the discount grocery channel, the emerging fresh-format channel and smaller-footprint retail formats.


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