As people become more aware of the benefits of a healthy diet, finding ways to eat healthily has become increasingly popular. And so are the potential options for achieving diet-related health goals.
But a new study suggests that people who are trying to eat healthily are substantially missing the mark.
Only about a quarter of people could accurately estimate how healthy they ate when asked to assess their diet after spending a year trying to lose weight. Perhaps even worse was that only 1 in 10 understood how their diet had actually changed over the year, with most assuming they had made much more significant strides than they had.
Prior research has shown that people overestimate how well they stick to healthy eating habits, like snacking on fruits and veggies, choosing whole grains, lean proteins, and substituting lower fat for full-fat dairy.
Researchers evaluated the diets of 116 adults between ages 35 and 58 in the Pittsburgh area who were trying to lose weight.
They used the actual eating data and the participant’s recollections to calculate two separate Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores. One was based on the true diet numbers, and the other was based on people’s perceptions of what they ate.
The HEI is a measurement to assess how an eating pattern aligns with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It goes from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating a healthier diet.
Most people were overestimating their diet by about 10-15 points than the HEI suggested, with only about a quarter coming close to their score.
Learning how to eat healthily can help you reach your health goals, and most importantly, taking a true assessment of your diet quality can ensure you are making the right decisions.
Diet is closely linked with several health conditions, and a high-quality diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and minimally processed foods. Discovering, and adhering to, a healthy diet, like a Mediterranean-style diet, may reduce the risk for conditions like heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and more.