Is Your Diet Actually Healthy?


A girl holds a bowl of healthy food sitting on the floor. | Image by Shutterstock

Most adults are overestimating the healthiness of their diets, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference last month.

“While people generally know that fruits and vegetables are healthy, there may be between what researchers and health care professionals consider to be a healthy and balanced diet compared to what the public thinks is a healthy and balanced diet,” stated Jessica Cheng, the study’s lead author.

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, an alarming increase in both adult and childhood obesity is ravaging the United States, leading to increases in diabetes and other preventable diseases. The Lone Star State is in especially bad shape, with 252 out of its 254 counties logging significant increases in their populations’ obesity rates over the past 10 years.

Roughly half of American adults attempt to lose weight each year. Most increase their intake of fruits and vegetables, but not necessarily enough to constitute a healthy and balanced diet.

In Cheng’s study, researchers analyzed the diets of 116 adults between the ages of 35 and 58 who were trying to lose weight. The subjects participated in planning sessions with a dietician to track their diets, daily activity, and weight.

A Healthy Eating Index (HEI) score was determined based on the frequency and types of foods eaten and how closely it aligned with the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The subjects assigned themselves a score and also received one from researchers, who then analyzed the degree to which the assessments were in agreement.

Roughly 25% of the participants’ scores were in “good agreement” with those of the researchers. The rest — 75% — were in “poor agreement,” with subjects reporting significantly more improvement in their diets than the researchers.

“People attempting to lose weight or health professionals who are helping people with weight loss or nutrition-related goals should be aware that there is likely more room for improvement in the diet than may be expected,” said Cheng. She argued that future studies should consider the effects of helping people narrow the gap between their perception and the reality of their diet quality.

Deepika Laddu, chair of the American Heart Association’s Council on Lifestyle Behavioral Change for Improving Health Factors, commented on the study’s findings.

“While misperception of diet intake is common among dieters, these findings provide additional support for behavioral counseling interventions that include more frequent contacts with health care professionals, such as dieticians or health coaches, to address the gaps in perception and support long-lasting, realistic healthy eating behaviors,” said Laddu, speaking with SciTechDaily.

The Dallas Express previously spoke with local dietitian Isabella Ferrari of Doherty Nutrition. She claimed that valuing convenience over the work of meal planning and preparation is one of the biggest psychological obstacles people face when trying to lose weight.

“A lot of people, for example, have super long commutes,” she said. “They don’t get home until six, and the last thing they want to do is work out or meal prep or go to the store and spend two hours cooking and cleaning.”

Ferrari further argued that a lack of nutritional education is another serious issue.

Still, studies like Cheng’s could provide a starting point for further exploring diet perception and developing effective frameworks to help people better understand what it means to adopt a healthy and balanced diet.

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Betsy Whitfill
Betsy Whitfill
1 month ago

There are more reasons than “diet” for our ill health and obesity. We are generally sedentary, except for those exercise enthusiasts. We are generally focussed on food as entertainment, as comfort, as relationship building. We dream of yummy food. We need to focus on the world around us, contributing to its betterment and developing our gifts and talents.

Ronald Reason
Ronald Reason
1 month ago

Do a Google Search for, “Standard American Diet (SAD)” and see a big reason why 20% of children (age 6-19) are obese and almost 75% of adults (20-over) have overweight, including obesity. Then, take a look in the mirror; and follow the path. Thank me later.