Your Diet Probably Isn't as Healthy as You Think

Study finds that most Americans overestimate it
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2022 7:00 AM CDT
Americans Are Lousy at Assessing Their Diets

In these divisive times, there is at least one thing nearly all Americans have in common: We are terrible at evaluating the healthfulness of our own diets, at least compared to how scientists rate us. That is according to Dr. Jessica Thomson of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in the Southeast, per ScienceDaily. While “self-rated health is a strong predictor of morbidity and mortality,” little data exists on whether self-rating of one’s diet reflects reality. “We felt it was important to study whether adults can accurately assess the quality of their diet because a simple self-assessment tool may be useful when designing nutrition interventions,” Thompson said, according to Healthline. “Of course, such a tool would only be useful if perceptions are accurate.”

Findings suggest those perceptions are far from accurate. Thomson and team asked 9,700 adults to complete “detailed, 24-hour dietary recall questionnaires” and then to rate their diets as excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor. Researchers used the food recall responses to rate participants’ diets based on the foods they ate; for example, broccoli scored high, cake scored low. Compared to the researchers’ ratings, roughly 85% of participants “inaccurately assessed their diet quality,” and 99% of those folks overrated their diets. One group stood out from the rest: People who rate their own diets as “poor” matched researchers’ scores some 97% of the time.

More research is needed to figure out how people assess their diet quality. Perhaps people don’t have a full understanding of what goes into the foods they purchase; or, perhaps, people still just don’t understand what’s good for them. “Until we have a better understanding of what individuals consider when assessing the healthfulness of their diet, it will be difficult to determine what knowledge and skills are necessary to improve self-assessment or perception of one's diet quality,” Thomson said. She presented her findings last week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition. (More diet stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.