The United States is Embarrassingly Unhealthy. Who’s to Blame?

The United States is the 35th healthiest country in the world. 35th! That means that 34 other countries have citizens living healthier, happier, and longer lives than the people in the richest country in the world. According to Bloomberg’s Healthiest Country Index, which looks at variables including life expectancy, risks such as tobacco use and obesity, and environmental factors including access to clean water and sanitation. At the top of their list is Spain and my beloved Italy (which has been number 1 for the past few years) is a very close second. Why is America so far behind? Could it be because of food marketing?

Americans are completely obsessed with food. We take pictures of it, talk about it, blog about it. And it’s advertised everywhere you look. We eat things that are outrageously decadent. And then go on crazy starvation diets to try to make up for it. In the American diet, red meat and other fatty foods take the forefront, while fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are still relegated to the side. Much of the food we eat is also full of cholesterol, salt, and sugar, while short on dietary fiber and nutrients that protect us from coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. And it’s all made worse because we’re conditioned to have our meals and snacks super-sized.  Restaurants and snack producers continue to find that to stay competitive they have to keep making larger portions. So much so that today if we get pasta the way they serve it in places like Italy, it would seem skimpy.

Italy, the second healthiest country by a hair,  is also completely obsessed with food. In fact, most things that happen there revolve completely around getting families together for the next meal. People travel from far away, just to experience the food. But, in Italy their food is simply prepared and almost never processed,  allowing the natural, healthy flavor to come through. The emphasis is on the quality, not the quantity of the food.

Just think about how badly we have distorted the Mediterranean diet, with places like Olive Garden that actually give you bottomless breadsticks and massive pasta bowls.

Does it really have to be this way? We know from the success of and deep connection consumers feel for brands like Fitbit, RxBar, and Peloton that Americans really want to be healthier. And we’re all watching brands that haven’t been listening to what consumers want like Kraft-Heinz and Campbell’s, scrambling for relevance and survival.

But what if big food started being about helping Americans get healthier? What if they were concerned less with making us crave bigger portions and helped us understand how to protect ourselves from disease and eat to be healthier and live longer? Wouldn’t we eventually love them more? Be more loyal? Advocate on their behalf? Could helping your consumers to lead healthier, happier, longer lives create a stronger connection to your brand? We know it is possible. And we know we can help with our proprietary relevance finding tool, I-Factor®.

Reach out. We can help.

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