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Study shows Americans overestimate nutrition knowledge

MyFitnessPal nutrition

From overestimating protein to misconceptions about health benefits, new data from MyFitnessPal shows majority of Americans have a limited understanding of nutrition

NEW YORK, Nov. 2, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — With the holiday season around the corner ushering in numerous gatherings and celebrations centered around food, new data suggests that Americans believe they understand nutrition but in reality aren’t making the grade.

MyFitnessPal, the leading global nutrition and food tracking app for achieving health and wellness goals, shares results from its recent Nutrition IQ survey[1], uncovering that while the majority of Americans (81%) claim to know nutrition basics, 91% of the general population says they don’t have any idea of how much protein, fiber, carbs, sugar and salt they consume daily.

Overall, results found that Americans’ nutritional knowledge is fairly elementary. While most people do know the basics of serving sizes, when it comes to actually identifying foods by nutritional value, they are far off. On average, Americans overestimate calories (by 57 calories) and protein (by 5 grams), while underestimating carbs (by 4 grams) and fats (by 4 grams).

In fact, the majority (77%) of respondents mistakenly believed that two fish tacos have less calories than a cheeseburger while they actually contain 110 calories more.

“With the constant barrage of information flooding TV screens and social media feeds along with conflicting recommendations from experts, it’s no wonder that many Americans are confused when it comes to their nutritional needs,” explains Tricia Han, CEO of MyFitnessPal.

“Remembering the basics while juggling a busy daily life is precisely what makes MyFitnessPal the perfect personal nutrition coach. With its robust food database, users have the power to learn about what they’re consuming and how it’s effecting their overall wellbeing and health, all in the palm of their hand.”

Brushing up on the basics

While 78% of respondents were able to accurately identify bowel movements as a primary benefit of fiber, they were unable to name additional benefits including cholesterol management, bone support or sugar management. This doesn’t just stop at a basic understanding of nutrition; Americans also had trouble identifying nutritional benefits of specific foods:

-Despite 71% of respondents being able to identify avocados as a healthy fat, a majority (93%) of Americans underestimate how many grams of fat are in an avocado, with 66% underestimating by at least half.
-Americans were more likely to overestimate how many calories are in a cheeseburger (77%) compared to the 29% who overestimated the calories in a Caesar salad.
-Most Americans also overestimate the amount of protein in common foods. For example, although a banana contains only one gram of protein, the average American believes it contains 10 grams of protein.
-Unsurprisingly, Americans struggled to accurately identify carbs and fats in foods, often underestimating by about four grams. The majority of Americans underestimate how much fat is in both Caesar salads and avocado by half, while also underestimating the total carbs in bananas and black bean burgers by half.

The lack of nutrition knowledge does not come as a total surprise based on other key findings. For instance, the survey showed that a majority of Americans don’t look up nutritional values before going to a restaurant or when cooking at home.

Additionally, when preparing meals at home Americans admitted that maintaining focus on their budget and serving size/meal planning outweigh nutritional value when deciding what to cook.

For more information on MyFitnessPal, visit or download via App Store and Google Play.

About MyFitnessPal
MyFitnessPal is the No. 1 global nutrition and food tracking app for achieving health goals. Since 2005, MyFitnessPal has empowered over 200 million users in over 120 countries to log food intake, record exercise activity and weight, track wellness habits, and achieve their health and fitness goals. As one of the world’s most trusted and leading resources on nutrition, MyFitnessPal’s mission is to ignite powerful nutrition and wellness change in members by empowering them to succeed on their own terms through personalized data-led insights, guidance, and unwavering support. With one of the largest food databases in the world comprising over 14 million foods, access to over 500 recipes, over 150 workout routines, 200 exercise demos and over 35 connected fitness partners, MyFitnessPal provides users with tools for positive healthy change. The MyFitnessPal app is available on the App Store and Google Play store. To learn more, visit or follow MyFitnessPal on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter.

1 Research was fielded by MyFitnessPal from July 2022 to August 2022. MyFitnessPal surveyed 1,450 nationally representative participants between the ages of 18-64 across the United States.