More than 40% of adults find it difficult to find reliable information on healthy diets, according to a British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) survey.
Changing information, messages and advice from media and experts were the biggest causes for confusion (76% and 61% respectively).
The survey questioned almost 500 adults in the UK between 8-24 May and found social media platforms (37%) are the most common reported source for nutritional information for adults.
Under a third (30%) said they use the NHS website, a quarter visit other health sites and 14% said they gather nutritional information from a doctor, hospital or health clinic.
Public needs consistent messaging
Roy Ballam, BNF’s managing director and head of education, said the public needs to receive more consistent messaging about diet and nutrition.
“With two thirds of adults overweight or obese, the UK is in the middle of an obesity crisis – and a lack of consumer knowledge and reliable information on healthy eating is a huge cause for concern,” he said.
“In the digital age, with growing concerns about the trustworthiness of information in the media, many are confused about which online sources are reliable – unsurprising when there is so much conflicting advice available.”
Almost half (48%) said that busy lives and stress play a large role in stopping them eating healthily.
Almost a quarter of respondents said there are limited healthy food and drink options available at work or close by and 28% said there were too many unhealthy snacks in their work setting.
More than six in 10 (61%) said they always or often check nutrition labels on food. Two thirds or more said the calories (64%), sugar (68%) and fat (60%) are things they look for on nutrition labels.
Ballam said a key to reducing obesity is changing behaviour.
“The results from this survey show that the main motivation for being healthy is weight control, however there seem to be a number of barriers within workplaces and universities that make this difficult.”
Traffic light labelling
Meanwhile, a different poll for Diabetes UK found six in 10 people would be more likely to buy food from an establishment that provided traffic light labelling on menus and packaging.
Almost six in 10 (59%) said they are more likely to eat where there is calorie labelling on food menus and packaging.
Diabetes UK said the survey shows the majority of the UK public’s spending habits eating outside the home might be positively influenced by how easily they understand what is in food and drink they’re buying.
ComRes interviewed 2,121 UK adults aged 18+ between 12 and 14 January. Almost seven in 10 (69%) said price promotions on healthy food would make them more likely to eat in a particular establishment.
Diabetes UK is calling for mandatory front-of-pack traffic light labelling on all pre-packaged food and calorie labelling in cafes and restaurants.
The charity said clearer food labelling will help the public make healthier choices at home and while eating out and help stem the rising tide of Type 2 diabetes diagnoses.
Understanding carbohydrate content of food is vital for people with diabetes who make adjustments to insulin dose by counting their carbs.
Helen Dickens, assistant director of campaigns and mobilisation, said: “These findings are a clear indicator, not only to the government, but also to the food and drink and service industries, that the public has an appetite to see better information about the food they’re buying, and they’re willing to vote with their wallets. It’s not just good for the health of the public; it’s good for business as well.”