ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Americans are eating more grain foods and making a connection between the Food Guide Pyramid and healthier eating, but there is still a long way to go toward meeting national dietary goals for daily consumption of breads and grains.
Those are some of the findings of a Gallup Organization survey commissioned by the Wheat Foods Council here and the American Bakers Association, Washington.
Americans average three servings of bread and grain foods a day, the telephone survey of 1,000 primary shoppers revealed. While that is only half the minimum amount recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid, it is a slight improvement over the 2.8 servings that Americans averaged in 1993.
The USDA recommends Americans consume six to 11 servings of bread and grain foods a day. According to the survey results, 91% of Americans eat fewer than six servings daily, and 71% eat three or fewer servings daily.
Judi Adams, executive director of the Wheat Foods Council, said progress toward the goal of understanding the dietary guidelines is heartening.
"The exciting news for the grain industry is that familiarity with the Food Guide Pyramid doubled in the last two years, from 27% in 1993 to 56% in this survey," she said. "More importantly, there appears to be a link between awareness and action. Gallup found that 81% of those who do eat at least six servings of grain foods daily are familiar with the Food Guide Pyramid," she said.
The survey was conducted by
telephone between Dec. 9, 1994 and Jan. 10, 1995. Gallup, based in Princeton, N.J., also discovered that the number of Americans who believe that bread is fattening decreased from 49% in 1993 to 40% in 1995. The vast majority of Americans, 93%, also agree that bread is nutritious.
In what the survey terms "nutrition contradictions," respondents revealed certain misconceptions about the role grain foods can play in a healthy diet. According to the survey, 80% of the participants reported they eat the right amount of grain foods, yet only 6% said they get the six to 11 servings called for by the Food Guide Pyramid.
Only 11% of Americans said they think they are not getting enough bread and grain foods, although 91% reported eating fewer than the recommended servings. The survey also asked about respondents' perceptions and preferences in grain foods.
Asked to say what their five favorite grain foods are, seven in 10 said bread tops their list, while half mentioned cereal. Others among the five most mentioned were rice, pasta and crackers.
Of the 91% who said they need to add more grains to their diets, 30% reported they are likely to fill that gap with bread. Pasta was the second most mentioned, at 29%, and cereal came in at 18%.
When it comes to bread, the survey found, many Americans are still unsure about the nutritional merits of white bread. Although nearly half, or 48%, of the respondents agreed that white bread is good for you, 50% disagreed. In commenting on the survey, Adams of the Wheat Foods Council said supermarket bakeries should work to educate consumers about the Food Guide Pyramid and the healthy aspects of bread and other grain foods. "I really think in-store bakeries would help sales by displaying the food pyramid more," she said. "They should display breads as healthy. I think there are real opportunities there."
Consumers who are educated about healthy foods might also realize that it is fine to indulge in sweets once in a while, she said. Shoppers who walk into the bakery for bread may walk out with a lemon-meringue pie or other baked item as well, she said.
"Our goal is to help Americans realize it's OK to enjoy more breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and other grain foods," she said. "In fact, they need to eat more of these foods." Ed DeYoung, director of bakery operations for 25-unit D&W Food Centers, Grand Rapids, Mich., when contacted by SN to comment on the survey results, said he is looking into using the Food Guide Pyramid in his bakeries. He said D&W conducts focus groups with consumers and, in a recent group, about half the participants were aware of the pyramid.
"I think the concept is great," DeYoung said. "As retailer, we have some opportunities here."
DeYoung said the pyramid could be used to educate consumers, as well as to market products.
He suggested that the pyramid could be used in advertisements, in-store circulars and radio announcements.