Consumer Healthy Habits: Diet & Nutrition

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Health and wellness are ever-present, but they’re under an even brighter spotlight thanks to the pandemic. This four-part series examines the top ways consumers manage their health. It connects broad research findings to search trend analysis to better understand the consumer mindset and intent in our digital-first world.

Explore other topics in the series: VITAMINS  |  OTC  |  EXERCISE


Nutrition information is constantly evolving as new science is revealed and fresh products and fads hit the market. But where does that leave consumers who might be confused about the foods they consume, the diets they follow, and other decisions about their nutritional health?

Healthy eating behaviors

The foods we eat have an enormous effect on our health and quality of life. Our survey shows that those who eat extremely healthfully first and foremost see diet and nutrition as a way to optimize their overall health (39%), beyond focusing on weight management (20%).

But a healthy mindset toward eating is not about having a so-called perfect diet. Even people in this cohort admit to eating pastries, cookies or sweets (15%), as well as fast food (14%), proving that many are not immune to the smell of freshly baked cookies. 

Interestingly, we found no significant difference by generation for people who eat “a very to extremely healthy diet” and those on the other side of this range, who say their diet is “a little to not at all healthy.” 

However, 49% of people who eat extremely healthy are millennials. This is in line with other research about this generation’s interest in making healthy lifestyle choices. Nevertheless, the fact that millennials account for a much larger percentage of people who eat extremely healthy than Gen X and boomers is certainly worth noting for brands and marketers.

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Healthy lifestyle drivers and barriers

On the opposite end of the spectrum, our study shows that the top three barriers to living a healthier lifestyle among those who don’t eat healthfully are that it’s hard to change habits, they lack motivation, and the cost is too high. 

This group is also more likely to say they are not sure which foods to eat and which lifestyle changes to make in order to be healthier. Worth noting: People who don’t eat as well say they have much more stress in their lives (33% are very or extremely stressed versus 18% in the healthier group). 

Information, please

Perhaps people who possess healthy eating habits are fueling their minds and bodies to tackle other parts of their day. Our research shows that people who eat extremely or very healthy diets are more engaged across all media than their less healthful peers. They are more likely to notice health and wellness information on websites (64%), television (59%), social media (53%), and email newsletters (51%) on a daily to weekly basis. 

Additionally, they are likelier than their less healthful peers to be engaged with health and wellness information across digital media, in particular on websites (64% versus 46%), in podcasts (26% versus 8%), and via text alerts (26% versus 11%). 

These insights provide a significant opportunity for brands and publishers to create messaging and produce digital content that can offer clarity and guidance to consumers who are interested in changing their behaviors.

Changing eating habits during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has unquestionably altered daily health behaviors, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Our survey shows that adults between the ages of 25 and 44 say their eating habits have actually improved during widespread stay-at-home orders, compared with other age groups. Around one-fifth (18%) of this group reports that their eating habits during the pandemic have been better for their health, compared with 14% in the 18-to-24 age range and 12% for those aged 45 and older.

Different age groups have different motivations for their behavior changes. According to respondents who say their diets have improved during COVID-19, adults aged 25 to 44 credit having more time to cook. Adults aged 18 to 24 say their desire to eat well stems from knowing that good food benefits more than just their weight — it also helps their immune system. All age groups agree that eating healthier makes them feel better overall.

Search trend analysis

As advice and wisdom about food and nutrition shift, so do people’s online searches and conversations. Healthline’s SEO experts have observed an increase in people looking to food to feed their physical and mental health, as well as decreases in certain diets as consumers lean more toward sustainable forms of eating. Here are the specific consumer behaviors we have seen over the past 30 days:

What’s UP Month Over Month

What’s DOWN Month Over Month

Natural diets: Consumer interest in better nutrition for better health is on the upswing. Search volume for foods to lower cholesterol is up 24%.

Vitamins: Searches for different vitamins that can help with the coronavirus are down across the board. Foods with vitamin C are also trending downward, decreasing by 18%.

Chia seeds: Search interest around chia seeds and their benefits has risen 60% month over month.

Trendy diets: Diet fads come and go, but at least two appear to be on their way out. Searches for the sirtfood diet are down 59%, and the lemonade diet is down 25%.

Brain foods: Searches for brain foods are up 36% as people look for ways to feed their mental energy as pandemic fatigue wears on.

Meeting consumer demand

Healthline Media provides the clarity consumers need to live healthier, stronger lives by responding to search insights with thoughtful and relevant content. Brands and marketers would do well to meet consumers online, where they’ve demonstrated a heightened intent to learn more about their health and the healthy habits that can make a difference in their lives.

Reach out to your Healthline Media representative or email us to learn how you can take action on these insights to boost your brand.

Explore other topics in Consumer Healthy Habits:

VITAMINS  |  OTC  |  EXERCISE

Sources: Healthline Media Health and Wellness Landscape Segmentation Study, representative of U.S. adults N = 1,533, conducted by Shapiro + Raj, February 2020. Google Analytics, August - September 2020.

About Healthline Media

As the #1 health media property in the US, Healthline Media reaches 90MM unique visitors each month (Comscore, May 2020). We provide credible health information with a compassionate approach.