Economic Research Report No. (ERR-62) 29 pp

August 2008

Is Dietary Knowledge Enough? Hunger, Stress, and Other Roadblocks to Healthy Eating

Poor diets and rising obesity rates among Americans persist despite increased public awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. This report presents a consumer demand model to illustrate how both long-term health objectives and immediate visceral influences-long intervals between meals and eating away from home-can drive individuals' food choices. The model predicts that cognitive dietary information will have less influence on food choices in the face of immediate visceral factors. Using data from the 1994-96 Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals and the companion Diet Health and Knowledge Survey, the analysis finds that when individuals extend the period between meals or consume more of their food away from home, they are significantly more likely to consume more calories and lower diet quality.

Keywords: Diet quality, food choices, behavioral economics, visceral influences, obesity rates, health, nutrition, healthy lifestyle, hunger, stress, eating away from home, dietary knowledge

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