Why It Can Be So Hard To Find Affordable, Healthy Food

The Lempert Report
March 11, 2019

Food labeling appears to be crucial to consumers’ choices when purchasing their food

report from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation and the American Heart Association found that 95 percent of shoppers in the United States say they always or sometimes seek healthy food options. That’s the good news.

Here’s the bad news: while the majority want the best foods, only 28 percent say it’s easy to find these products, and 11 percent report it’s just too difficult to track them down at all.

The findings came from an online survey of 1,017 adults in the United States between the ages of 18 to 80 who have the sole or shared responsibility of overseeing their household grocery shopping, according to.

Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, a senior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, said  “There is a lot of conflicting information about what constitutes a healthy food. Front-label packaging on foods often misleads consumers into believing that a food is healthier than it is. For example, many children’s cereals will say ‘good source of vitamin D.’ However, it might have a lot of sugar and not much fiber in the cereal. That is misleading the consumer to believe this cereal will provide an added benefit when they could easily get the vitamin D from a supplemental pill, drops, or milk or non-dairy product.”  

“Right now, ‘keto’ seems to be the buzzword, so people will believe that only ‘keto-approved’ foods are healthy,” she added. “So, I think in many cases, misleading packaging, advertisements, news stories, pop culture, et cetera make it difficult for people to truly know what the ‘healthy’ option is once they are standing in front of a row of foods at the grocery store.”

Food labeling appears to be crucial to consumers’ choices when purchasing their food, but consumers often look to different labels to determine if a food is healthy.

The survey found that 69 percent of people used the Nutrition Facts panel on their food items as the top source for nutrition information. This was followed by 67 percent using the ingredients list. 

45 percent sought out labels for ingredients they were specifically seeking compared to 31 percent who consulted labeling to see if the foods contained ingredients they needed to avoid.