Special Diets Are On the Rise

What's on your client's grocery list…and why?

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In the recent Nielsen Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey, half of U.S. respondents reported adhering to a restricted diet - one that limits or prohibits certain foods or ingredients. It's only logical to expect that some of these consumers may be looking to fitness professionals for help regarding their grocery list. "Consumers want to eat more healthfully, but they can't do it alone," says Andrew Mandzy, the director of strategic health and wellness insights at Nielsen, which polled more than 30,000 people in 63 countries. The survey sought to understand how consumers feel about the foods and beverages available on store shelves, including those appealing to people with specific dietary restrictions.

Noteworthy U.S. Stats

Among American respondents, the most common category of food restrictions that was reported was "sugar conscious," with 22% reporting a need to limit or avoid foods with sugar. "Low sodium" was next (21%), followed by "low fat" (19%) and "low carbohydrates" (15%). At just 8%, "wheat/gluten free" was lower than might be expected, given the recent media attention, while the category "lactose/dairy free" followed close behind at 7%. Tied at 6% each were "vegetarian" and "flexitarian" (a diet that's plant-based but includes occasional meats). At 4%, Kosher eaters also warrant awareness, as do those who follow a Halal diet, particularly for fitness pros who work with clients in or from the Middle East. Though just 3% of Americans follow a Halal diet, 48% of the African/Middle Eastern respondents said that they do, making it the most commonly cited diet in the survey. At 2%, vegan was the least popular of the special diets, which is an interesting statistic, considering it has garnered more media attention than the more common Halal diet.

Factors Contributing to Healthier Eating

It's helpful to note the four main reasons for a worldwide increase in attention on healthy, clean eating, according to the Nielsen survey:

Global graying. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the growth of the world's older population will outpace that of the younger over the next 35 years.

Chronic health conditions. The leading causes of death and disability - cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, respiratory diseases and cancer - are expected to account for 73% of deaths globally by 2020, up from 60% in 2001.

Food as medicine. Seventy percent of the survey respondents said they actively make dietary choices to help manage or prevent health conditions.

Educated consumers. Modern consumers want transparency regarding where and how their products are made, raised or grown. Nearly 75% feel better about companies that freely supply this information.

By staying informed about dietary trends and restrictions, you can be better prepared to answer client questions on these topics.
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