When it comes to dieting, a lot of people are patting themselves on the backs when they should be pinching an inch. 

A whopping nine out of ten consumers polled by Consumer Reports Health described their diet as “somewhat,” “very,” or “extremely” healthy.  While everyone seems to talk about healthy eating, the devil is in the sugary drinks, fats, carbs, and take out, says the survey, available online.  

The nationally representative poll is part of an online diet and fitness hub that features newest ratings by Consumer Reports (CR) for treadmills, ellipticals, and heart rate monitors, plus the results of a taste-off comparing prepared diet food made by Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem. The hub also includes six weight loss strategies that might come in handy for all those healthy eaters out there.  

Defining "healthy"

“Americans have a tendency to give themselves high marks for healthy eating, but when we asked how many sugary drinks, fatty foods, and fruits and veggies they consumed, we found that their definition of healthy eating was somewhat questionable,” said Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor, Consumer Reports Health.  “We were surprised to find that very few Americans weigh themselves and count calories, two strategies that can help dieters stay on track.  Americans seem to rely instead on their own internal compasses to slim their girths.”

Survey Highlights

  1. Nine out of ten (89.7 percent) people polled by Consumer Reports Health described their diet as “somewhat” (52.6 percent), “very” (31.5 percent), or “extremely” (5.6 percent) healthy. 
  2. Forty-three percent of consumers drink at least one soft drink or sugar sweetened coffee or tea every day.
  3. A paltry one in four (28 percent) limits sweets and sugars every day and roughly the same number (26 percent) limits fat intake daily.   Nineteen percent carefully limit their carbs every day.
  4. About one third (30 percent) of those asked indicated they eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day. When asked why they don’t eat more vegetables, the top reason given was that they were already satisfied with the amount of vegetables they consumed.  The next most commonly cited reason: vegetables are too hard to store or they go bad (29 percent).  Seventeen percent said someone in their household didn’t like vegetables while the same percent said that vegetables take too long to prepare or are too difficult to prepare.  Fourteen percent said they’re too expensive and 13 percent said they don’t like vegetables.
  5. The most popular vegetables (ranked by the percentage of people who eat them at least once a week) include: Lettuce or salad greens (78 percent), Tomatoes (71 percent), Carrots (63 percent), Potatoes other than sweet potatoes (61 percent), Broccoli (57 percent), Corn (56 percent), and Peppers (50 percent).
  6. The Veggie Wallflower List (ranked by percentage of people who rarely eat them) includes: Parsnips (87 percent), Swiss Chard (86 percent), Bok Choy (82 percent), Turnips and rutabagas (80 percent), Artichokes (78 percent), Eggplant (78 percent), and Okra (77 percent).
  7. Seventy-nine percent of people rarely or never count calories while a slim 8 percent do so on a daily basis.  Sixty percent rarely or never weigh themselves while 13 percent do so every single day.
  8. Thirty-seven percent of those asked missed the mark when they self-reported their weight.  For example, one out of three people who said they were at a healthy weight actually had BMIs in the overweight (30 percent) or obese range (three percent).  Also, eight percent thought they were overweight or obese when their BMIs suggested they were not.

Keeping the pounds off

Consumer Reports Health notes that when people undertake drastic diet and exercise changes, they’re often unsuccessful. An alternative approach is to start with easier-to-make small changes such as these  six:

  1. Stop drinking calories: Numerous studies have left little doubt about the connection between increased consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and the soaring rates of weight gain and obesity.  Part of the problem is that when people consume energy in beverage form, they don’t get the same fullness they get from solids. And don’t forget those liquid calories from alcohol.
  2. Eat more protein: Low-carb, high protein diets have proved surprisingly effective, especially in the short term. And it turns out that people who eat a higher proportion of their calories from protein end up consuming fewer calories overall.
  3. Eat more fiber: Fiber is the good guy of food, possibly protecting against colon cancer and heart disease, and it is your weight-control friend.  Fiber slows digestion, helping you feel fuller longer, and displacing other caloric foods. Best of all, it comes in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals.
  4. Lead yourself not into temptation: The food industry works hard to create irresistible high calorie foods.  Consumers can’t avoid encountering these foods in their daily lives, but they can keep them out of their homes.
  5. Add 2,000 steps a day, which is about 20 to 25 minutes of walking, covers about a mile, and will burn about 100 calories a day.  It can be all at once or spread out through the course of the day.
  6. Cut screen time: Sitting burns about as many calories as sleeping. Research has shown that the more screen time people indulge in, the heavier they get.  Activities like standing upright washing dishes, getting dressed, and filing papers can double one’s metabolic rate compared to sitting, so people should look for opportunities to stand up and move around.