40% of Shoppers: Healthy Food Tastes Bad

Earlier this month Catalina Marketing released a consumer insight report demonstrating how difficult it is for consumers to shake old habits and to start buying and preparing healthy foods. Some of the interesting stats from the report:

  1. 4 out of 10 shoppers believe that healthy foods does not taste good. The numbers are worse for fast food aficionados.
  2. Over 75% of shoppers believe that healthy food is expensive.
  3. 80% would like to see more coupons for healthy foods. (Unfortunately most coupons are for the most heavily processed products like sugar cereals, soft drinks…)
  4. Over one third of shoppers said it was hard to shop for healthy meals.
  5. Over one third said it was hard to prepare a healthy meal. For families with kids the number shot up to 50%.
  6. 69% of shoppers would like their supermarket to stock freshly prepared, healthy meals.
  7. 64% of shoppers are interested in programs that recommend healthier options for the products.
  8. Half of the shoppers felt that the supermarket helps them make healthful choices.
  9. But only 25% believe supermarket employees are knowledgeable about nutrition.
  10. Another interesting finding is that for the most part, grocery shopping information is obtained old school style -  Just 15% of shoppers visit their supermarket’s website, but 80% read the print circular.

What you need to know:

Manufacturers would like you to think that if you want to eat healthfully you’ll need to pay more. While this is certainly true for many prepared products, if you do your own cooking you can actually save money by resorting to a few simple tactics. For example:

  • Buy bulk – single ingredients such as brown rice, beans, whole grains are much cheaper than when packaged in boxes or as part of a “mix”.
  • Cut your own veggies – Why pay 3 times as much for a bag of cut leafy greens when you can do the same in 5 minutes?
  • Replace soft drinks with tap water, not expensive vitamin waters – A family of four switching to tap water will save $500 a year!
  • Instead of buying expensive single serve frozen meals, why not learn to cook your own meal on the weekend and freeze leftovers for the upcoming week?
  • Coupons for junk food will cost you more down the road – cheaper not to use them and not to buy the junky foods they lead you to consume.

Yes, you will need to spend more time in the kitchen, but if you employ your kids, you may actually start to enjoy this as a family activity.

What to do at the supermarket:

For more suggestions, check out out Top 10 tips for nutritious shopping, which was written at the beginning of the most recent recession.

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  • Charlotte

    Hear hear on number three! I’ve recently started using coupons to try to cut our food bill. However, I find it really hard, as we generally eat pretty healthy. Well, my son and I do. My husband, who’s American, doesn’t. Even if I buy veggies on sale, it all still gets pretty expensive. What is the point of getting free milk through a coupon when you have to buy 3 packs of cookies to get the milk?

    And, that 69% of shoppers who’d like to see healthy, freshly prepared meals, probably aren’t prepared to pay them. Just sayin’…

  • http://lorieknapponline.com Lorie

    My biggest problem lately has been trying to buy a few potatoes for a meal — unless I want a large, boring russet I have to buy 3-5 lbs worth. Whatever happened to allowing the customer to select their own veggies? I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten home and found the contents of pre-bagged fruits and veggies to be rotting; or how many times I’ve had to throw away several pounds of potatoes or onions because I wasn’t able to use them all fast enough.

  • Cactus Wren

    I’m sure this is all very helpful for people who have a range, and a stockpot to cook all those nice “cheap” bulk ingredients in, and a freezer to store them in, and a weekend in which to do this. Not so much for people who are sharing an apartment and cooking on a hotplate, or don’t have access to a supermarket, or don’t have a freezer, or are working a weekend job as well as a weekday one. (And a note to Charlotte: the people I’m talking about are those who, as you put it, “aren’t prepared to pay” for healthy meals … if by “aren’t prepared” you mean “aren’t able”.)

  • Brooke

    @Cactus Wren

    Okay, you have my attention and I understand the issues surrounding food deserts.

    Tell me and the other Fooducate readers what can be done to alleviate the problems for those in such situations. I’ve seen several of your comments describing the problem, but I have yet to see a call to action!

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com Nancy-The Frugal Dietitian

    This is the reason I started my own blog, due to many of these misconceptions.

  • Nikki

    government subsidies for corn, wheat, soy and dairy = cheaper, processed, unhealthy, abundant food options

  • elisabeth

    the “taste” differential is real — if you’re used to a lot of fat, salt, sugar in your food it will seem that healthier options don’t taste as “good.” I think that efforts like that of Mayor Bloomberg in NYC are what’s needed — if manufacturers started changing recipes to use less sugar, fat, salt, people would find it easier to change and there would be immediate benefits. In my opinion, it can’t just be the individual consumer, food producing companies need to be part of the solution, and that may mean a more active FDA.

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com Nancy-The Frugal Dietitian

    I believe we need to “attack” the choices with the Food Stamp program (SNAP) like we already do with the program, WIC (Women, Infant and Children). Be more specific in what they can buy.

  • J in VA

    @Nancy-The Frugal Dietitian

    I agree…I used to work in Public Health with WIC clients doing nutrition counseling. Many of our clients were also on food stamps. Often, they still made poor food choices. If they didn’t want a particular item on their WIC they could just not get it. I would like us to create some sort of control of the purchases since We are paying for the food and have to pay for the consequences of poor decisions. If a recepient refuses to eat healthy “x” then they could just ignore it within their food stamp allotment.

    Money for *wants* can always be found.Presently, I work in Maternal-Child Health. Money for nice clothing, high end phones/electronics, fancy manicures, etc… seem to be available in many (not all) food stamp recepients. Some of this could be used for non-healthy treats and I would be happy to help pay for their healthy food.

  • http://justjuliebean.wordpress.com julie

    I always wonder when people say it’s so expensive to eat healthy. Sure, if you want all organic, especially if you eat processed foods, but my farmers market is CHEAP! It’s also a major pain in the butt, I have to get up very early on Saturday to go, deal with huge crowds, difficult access, language differences, but it is worth it to me. It helps that I have good tupperwares and can keep my produce fresh, and I’m willing to process most of my food myself. Beans, grains, veggies, bulk spices are cheap, while meat, dairy, fruit is not. I’m lucky not to have to share an apt, though my place is <250 square feet, and I can't turn around in my kitchen without bumping something. But where there's a will, there's a way, and vice versa, there's always an excuse or reason not to do something.

  • Mari

    There’s a million excuses, but here’s some of what my perceived “facts” are:

    1) People don’t know how to cook simply. We’re raising a nation of kids who are in the process of becoming adults that don’t value knowing how to cook simple, healthy things for themselves AT ALL, so they feel limited and scared when they have to come up with dinner.

    2) Using processed foods to make a “home cooked meal” are going to barely give you a result that’s better than fast food. It is fast food. Cake mix does not mean you made a cake any more than alfredo from a box is dinner.

    3) People are VERY content with saying that they don’t know how to do these things. “Eating healthy, Eating vegetarian” are the same abstract comments with no weight.

    4) Time. Really, it’s your body. Is that 1100 calorie fast food meal really worth your TIME? If #1 weren’t such an issue, this wouldn’t be either, and not knowing what to eat wouldn’t make you FAT, it would make you THIN.

    5) The imaginary workout balancing act. The activity that people think they do to get rid of the calories they don’t do enough to get rid of.

    Honestly, cooking shows don’t do it. I’m not sure how to get a nation of disinterested people back in to cooking when they’ve just been won over by the easy calorie delivery of processed foods…and seem to think any government action to try to right a wrong is a perceived attack on their personal freedom to make bad decisions in life. I’m really at a loss. How to get people to care about themselves when companies have free rein to lie about what they’re producing to make them think THEY CARE about the buyers. It’s getting scary out there. I’m not a huge person, I’m not tiny, but the world is looking a lot different in the last 10 years.

    /end rant

  • http://www.livingitupcornfree.com kc

    Healthy food doesn’t taste good to fast food and processed food junkies simply because really healthy food doesn’t have added chemical flavor enhancers. Processed foods are made from the lowest possible quality ingredients with hydrolyzed protein additives added to fool the brain into thinking the taste buds are happy. These additives are in everything from raw chicken and pork, bread to canned tuna and soups. That means that the modern American version of a homecooked meal (making a meal using cans and packages and boxes of processed foods) still contains enough of these artificial flavor enhancers to float a barge. It’s no wonder that people can’t stand the flavor of healthy foods. The good news is that it is a temporary condition. If one sticks to a healthy whole foods diet for just a week or so, the flavor of real foods slowly becomes evident and the addiction to these flavor enhancers is broken.

    As a family with corn and soy allergies we cook everything we eat from scratch. We’ve also learned first hand just how little other families cook. Adults and kids alike are always in awe when finding out my teenagers know hot to cook complete meals from scratch and most confess to “not being able to boil water”. Even most restaurants now utilize precooked and frozen appetizers and desserts. We are evolving into a nation full of citizens who are unable to perform the most basic survival skill.

    BTW, it made me laugh to read that “4 out of 10 shoppers believe that healthy foods does not taste good.” I noticed that the poll didn’t define the term “healthy foods” and I couldn’t help thinking about all the people I’ve talked to that mistake Lean Cuisine and nonfat fruit-flavored yogurt for healthy food.

  • http://shannon-craver.com Shannon

    A lot of the problem is misunderstanding the facts about cooking healthy, but it cannot be blamed entirely on this. I am an incredibly busy workaholic overachiever student/designer, and I still make the attempt to eat healthy. I always have a well stocked pantry filled with whole grains/legumes/canned veg etc, and where I live now it is fairly easy to access fresh vegetables incredibly cheaply (thank god I live in Chinatown). That being said, as a person who is extremely conscious of what I eat, I once lived in a food desert in Baltimore. Having to bike 1/2 an hour or more to get fresh veg (and even then it sometimes wasn’t of great quality), with access to some fairly cheap, somewhat healthy (but far less healthy than cooking in) take out options much closer, left me cooking less and less. I can completely understand how easy it is to eat unhealthy when the local grocery store has aisles and aisles of processed junk, a “bakery” that consists of Ho Hos and “snack cakes”, and a produce section that is about 10ft wide.
    And I mean I was pretty fortunate compared to people in other parts of the city in terms of access to food.

  • eva

    I’m glad that everyone here is eating so healthfully, but as a new user to this site it’s really disturbing to see how much back patting and looking down on others i see in nearly every post’s comments.

    I totally agree with Cactus Wren on a lot of this. It’s great to say that cooking natural is incredibly easy and cheap if people only knew how to do it, but the fact is, most people aren’t taught to do that, and educating oneself is a huge task. not only is it harder than having the same habits, but it can be difficult to know where to begin.
    I’m on food stamps. I don’t buy myself a ton of expensive baubles or anything, but I’m not completely depriving myself of all non-essentials, either. I have internet, a one dvd at a time netfliz account, etc. What you seem to be missing on the “cheap” part is that a lot of healthy foods are less expensive “in the long run.” which may not be an option to someone who has, say, $160 a month to feed two people. I’m sure that can be done, but can it be done if you don’t have special supplies?

    up until recently, my refrigerator space was about the size of a beach cooler, and my freezer space was a similar size. I don’t have a lot of cabinets to store food safely, and anything that requires more specialized tools than a knife, a wooden spoon, and a handful of pots is still more than my kitchen can handle. No tupperware, since there’s no space for any.

    At $160 per month, again, even when items are cheaper per unit in bulk, unless you want to eat the same thing every day, the price of the item might be too expensive for you. $160/month divided weekly, which is how I get money, means $40 per week. someone offered me a Sam’s Club membership. I had to decline because most items there were $10-$20 for one thing. That’s a lot of my grocery money on a single item. At the time, I worked 55+ hours a week at a physical job, and then walked to and from that job. You can tell me i’m being lazy, but when I got home, I wanted to eat something simple to make and quickly, before I fell asleep.

    My circumstances have improved in some ways since then, and yes, I’m working hard to eat more healthy foods. But cost per item still provides a barrier, so does availability… In my small town, It can be difficult to find many items a lot of people take for granted. There is a really amazing from-scratch bakery near my place, though, that has been using the same recipes since they opened in the 1940′s with very few changes. They have an awesome selection of all sorts of healthy, chemical and preservative free breads, noodles, etc. And I even pick up pastries occasionally. They taste waay better than store-bought ones!

  • Anon

    Junk foods taste good because we are just like wild animals.  And just like wild animals our survival instinct tells us to eat all the sugars and fats we can.  In a wild setting this is the only way to survive.  Our bodies do not know about our ” civilization ” and know nothing of our supplies.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/JT-Jester/712082602 J.T. Jester

    60% of Shoppers: Lying.