Are Shoppers Reading Nutrition Labels Less than They Admit?

Here’s an interesting article in a recent edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Apparently, people read nutrition labels much less than they think they do. Researchers reached this conclusion by monitoring eye movements of approximately 200 volunteers.

This was in a simulated shopping experience, where the subjects were seated in front of computers fitted with eye tracking cameras they were not aware of. They were shown product inmages with various information, including nutrition labels.

Of the 65 people reporting they read labels, less than 20 actually did! That’s about 30%. Or 70% that did read the information, despite their claims.

Also, people who do read labels, start at the top and taper off before reaching the bottom. More on the study in the WSJ.

Do you read labels? What do you look at first – the calories? carbs? Or maybe the ingredient list?

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  • Michelle

    Trying to buy as little food as possible that requires a nutrition label- but I do check it for the sauces, dressings, etc. Mostly to make sure I’ve got recognizable ingredients, not too much sugar, and no corn or other fillers.

  • http://www.healthy-eating-support.com/nutrition-data.html Lynn Scott

    I used to read every label and now I sometimes do.  Once a product requires a label, usually that means there is something on it that is questionable.
    Often, I make up my mind without reading the label because the product is something I really want and enjoy.
    My question is this.  Why can’t we have it all?  Delicious and Nutritious.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Monique-Cheney/182700408 Monique Cheney

      There is a lot of recipes out there that are delicious and nutritious. I’ve been trying to avoid processed foods so I find healthy options online. Pinterest is a good site to search for healthy tasty recipes that can be cooked in under 1hr.

      • http://www.healthy-eating-support.com/nutrition-data.html Lynn Scott

        Thank you Monique.  I’ll check it out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Monique-Cheney/182700408 Monique Cheney

    I check labels a lot more now. I usually look for calories, sodium, and the ingredient list.

  • Roadwarriorrd

    Shopping takes me forever as I read the whole label with special interest in sodium, calories, fat, cholesterol and fiber. Same when I eat out I go thru all the items assessing for same but especially sodium and calories.

  • FrugalArugula

    I think I read ingredients more/before than the nutrition label. Though, if it’s frozen, I always read the nutrition label first.

    I don’t think I buy all that many things with labels. Typically I get my sweets from local bakeries and everything else I make from scratch. My cheeses don’t have labels.

  • jnwalsh1

    Had to pause and think about this one. The truth is, the only things I buy regularly that have labels are natural peanut butter, Ezekiel bread, plain oats, olive oil and organic chicken sausages…and I’ve had the ingredients and nutritional content on all that stuff memorized for years.  When I’ve occasionally needed something like canned tomatoes for a recipe, however, I’ve spent a good ten minutes in the aisle reading every brand trying to figure out why the hell they need to put HFCS and five unpronounceable ingredients into diced tomatoes.  I ended up buying fresh ones and dicing them my damned self.

  • lymore hauptman

    i only read the ingredient list. that’s all the info i need to make a decision.  I only buy things with 5 pronounceable and natural ingredients or less and if one of those 5 is sugar or a chemical additive, back on the shelf it goes! If you are buying things with food labels that have 5 ingredients or less, you can generally assume that the rest of the nutrition info will be ok. most of the things i buy don’t have labels (veggies and fruit, whole grains and legumes). yum.

  • Allison

    Always the ingredients first. The so-called “nutrition” label is almost irrelevant, except for the amount of sugars. Fiber is also interesting to know. Cholesterol is almost totally bogus since our bodies create cholesterol, it is not altered by how much you “cholesterol” you eat unless you have a rare gentic disorder.

  • Alex Leykin

    I am surprise to find an eye-tracking study that reports a “central bias” (a tendency of people to fixate on the center of the screen) as an actual result. Did the authors read the prior literature?