WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they avoid soda in their diet, while more than half say they avoid sugar. Meanwhile, more than nine in 10 Americans claim they try to include fruits (92%) or vegetables (93%) in their diet -- slightly more than said this previously.
These data are from a July 7-10 Gallup poll that asked Americans about their consumption habits. Americans have become increasingly wary of drinking soda since Gallup began asking them about their dietary choices in 2002. At that time, only 41% said they actively tried to avoid soda, a percentage that has now jumped to 63%.
Studies continue to reveal the adverse health effects of consuming soda, and high-profile attempts to ban the purchase of large individual servings of soda or to tax it have apparently raised Americans' consciousness about drinking it, even if closer to half still consume the beverage. At this point, 13% of Americans say they don't think about soda intake, down from 24% a decade ago.
Americans More Likely to Include Vegetables and Fruits Than Organic Foods
The data generally show that Americans are highly aware of what they should and should not be including in their diet, including their almost universal claim that they include fruits and vegetables in their daily eating plans. Because it is not clear that such a high proportion of Americans really do eat this healthily, the challenge appears to be one of changing their actual behavior rather than their underlying knowledge of what is good and bad for their health.
Less than half of Americans, 45%, try to include organic foods -- which have become increasingly available in stores in recent years -- in their diet. Nearly as many, 38%, do not give much consideration to including or avoiding organic foods, a higher percentage than for any other type of food on the list.
Americans Also Avoiding Sugar, but Change Not as Evident as It Is for Soda
Avoidance of sugar has also increased since 2002, most likely for similar reasons. Sugar has a wide variety of negative effects on the body, and many experts say Americans consume too much of it. While the percentage of Americans who actively include sugar in their diet hasn't changed significantly since 2002, the number avoiding it has reached a new high. Meanwhile, the number of Americans who don't think about their sugar intake has reached a new low (19%).
But while Americans are attempting to adjust their consumption of soda and sugar, minding their salt intake hasn't changed much over the years, with the current level of avoidance about the same as in 2002. Today, 28% of Americans say they try to include salt in their diet, 46% avoid it, and 25% do not think about it either way.
Dietary Choices Among Food Groups Virtually Unchanged Since 2002
Among protein-rich foods, chicken and other poultry remain what the largest proportion of Americans try to include (84%), followed by fish and other seafood (75%), and beef and other red meat (62%) -- all largely unchanged since 2002. Still, some Americans avoid these foods, with 5% avoiding chicken, 9% avoiding seafood, and more than one in five (22%) avoiding red meat. Between 10% and 16% don't think about whether any of these high-protein foods are on their personal menus.
Seven in 10 Americans try to include grains (70%) and dairy products (69%) in their diet. While dietary trends for dairy have not fluctuated greatly since 2002, avoidance of grains more than doubled between 2002 (6%) and 2004 (14%). Since then, the percentage who avoid grains has remained virtually unchanged (it's now 15%) despite the introduction of the Paleo diet, which discourages carbohydrates. Currently, 41% include carbs in their diet, while 29% avoid them.
Since 2002, soda and sugar have moved into the category of food a majority of Americans appear to consider bad for them. This year, more Americans than ever say they try to avoid drinking soda, while there has been little change in sentiment about avoiding sugar intake. At the same time, avoidance of salt -- something close to half the public tries to do -- has not increased. And despite a series of diet fads that frown on carbohydrates, the percentage of Americans avoiding grains has increased only at the margins since 2004; the vast majority of Americans still view these as important to include in their diet.
A promising note is that almost all Americans say they try to include fruits and vegetables. But this doesn't necessarily reflect their success in doing so.
In a nation that struggles with obesity, Americans' words about what they eat likely need to be followed up with actions.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 7-10, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,013 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.