May 23, 2023

2023 Food & Health Survey: Impact of Rising Costs, Stress, and Social Media on Food Choices

(Washington, D.C.) — The International Food Information Council (IFIC) released its 2023 Food and Health Survey today, unveiling significant findings regarding Americans’ eating habits and food choices.

The 18th edition of the annual survey reveals key consumer insights around the rising cost of food, stress and well-being, the influence of social media on food and nutrition decisions, evolving eating patterns, climate consciousness, and healthy labels as purchase drivers.

“The 2023 IFIC Food and Health Survey is a comprehensive snapshot of the complex factors that shape American food and nutrition choices,” said Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, President and CEO of IFIC. “As we navigate the shifting landscape of food production and consumption, this survey underscores the importance of balancing competing priorities, and consumers’ desire for clear and accurate information that empowers them to make the best food and beverage decisions for themselves and their families.”

Paying the Price: How Rising Food Costs Reshape America’s Plates

An overwhelming 91% of respondents saw an increase in food and beverage prices over the past year (72% noted a “major” increase), up from 83% who said the same thing in 2022. Among those people, nearly half (47%) said they always or often cut back on nonessential food and beverage products. Price is also taking a toll on the healthfulness of Americans’ diets: Nearly 3 in 10 consumers who noticed higher food prices in 2023 said they made less healthy choices as a result.

A consistent theme across the IFIC Food and Health Survey history has been the dominance of taste as the top factor driving our food and beverage purchases. Its importance among five key motivators (taste, price, healthfulness, convenience, and sustainability) only strengthened over the past year, with 87% of respondents in 2023 citing it as a factor in their decisions — up from 80% in 2022.

Similarly, price also saw a notable increase — from 68% in 2022 to 76% in 2023 — suggesting that economic uncertainties and inflation could be exerting a stronger influence on consumers.

Food and Mood: Unraveling the Connection Between Stress and Dietary Decisions

The 2023 IFIC Food and Health Survey reveals a strong connection between mental and emotional well-being and consumers’ food choices.

About three-quarters of Americans (74%) believed the foods and beverages they consume have a significant or moderate impact on their overall well-being, indicating the increasingly recognized role of food and nutrition in our overall health. Conversely, a smaller majority (61%) believed their overall well-being has a significant or moderate impact on their food choices.

As a result of stress, 51% of Americans say they consumed less healthy food and beverages over the past six months compared to their typical consumption.

In general, 60% reported being somewhat or very stressed in 2023, a slight increase over 2022 (56%). Gen Z and Millennial respondents were more likely to report stress than their older counterparts.

Scroll, Tap, Eat: Social Media’s Role in Shaping Nutritional Choices

The survey also sheds light on the pervasive influence of social media on the dietary habits of Americans, especially among younger generations. This digital diet trend exposes the dual role of social media: promoting healthier food choices and exposing audiences to new ways of thinking about food, while also sowing confusion and doubt.

About 4 in 10 Americans (42%) said they have come across social media content about food and nutrition in the past year. Exposure to this content is inversely proportional with age, with Gen Z (71%) and Millennials (58%) reporting the highest exposure as compared to older generations. For better or worse, two-thirds said they trust that information at least a little (46%) or a lot (21%).

Findings about specific social media platforms show that there are major disconnects between where people see content and how trustworthy they find those sources. For instance, Facebook is the most popular social platform for food and nutrition content, cited as the source for 64% of respondents who reported seeing such content. But only 18% trust Facebook a lot.

A solid majority (60%) of those who reported seeing food-related social media content said that it encouraged them to make at least somewhat healthier choices.

Given the disparities in popularity and trust among platforms, it might come as little surprise that about two-thirds (68%) of consumers reported seeing a lot of conflicting information on social media about foods to eat or avoid — and 60% said that conflicting information makes them doubt their food choices.

“Social media has morphed from a mere networking platform into a digital dining table, shaping our food choices, stirring culinary curiosity, and serving as a recipe for both clarity and confusion in our nutritional narratives,” said Reinhardt Kapsak.

“Social media discourse about food is not just a fad — it has grown into a de facto nutritionist for millions of Americans, influencing consumer attitudes and decisions, but with information that can vary in both its accuracy and impact.”

Beyond the Fine Print: The Power of Healthy Labels in Food Purchases

With health consciousness at the forefront, consumers report that “healthy” labels would affect consumers’ food choices. For instance, when given the option of buying a hypothetical snack product labeled “healthy” vs. an otherwise identical product without such a label, consumers chose the “healthy” option 55% to 16%.

But individual definitions of the term vary, with 40% of respondents defining “healthy” as fresh, followed by low in sugar and a good source of protein. At the same time, different generations have different views on their own healthfulness. Millennials were most likely to believe that they had more concern about healthfulness and nutrition than other generations (65% vs. 50% for Gen Z, 53% for Gen X and 50% for Boomers).

Americans are scrutinizing product labels for a variety of other terms, including “natural,” which 40% of in-person shoppers reported buying regularly. Overall, people who shop in-person are more likely to check food labels (55% always or often check labels) than online shoppers (46% always or often check labels). Moreover, online shoppers’ attention to labels is down from 2022, when 52% said they always or often check those labels.

Diet Dedication: America’s Evolving Eating Patterns

The survey reveals a prevalence of specific dietary patterns, with more than half of Americans (52%) reporting they followed a specific eating pattern or diet at some point in the past year. High protein diets, a new choice in this year’s survey, was the most popular (18%), followed by mindful eating (17%).

The findings of the survey suggest that image is an increasingly big motivator behind people’s eating patterns. The top three reasons people cited for those eating patterns all increased significantly in 2023: 43% wanted to lose weight (up from 34% in 2022), 39% wanted to improve their physical appearance (up from 31%), and 39% wanted to feel better or have more energy (also up from 31%).

Eating for the Earth: The Intersection of Food Choices and Environmental Impact

Fewer consumers in 2023 cited environmental sustainability as a driver of their food and beverage purchases (34% in 2023 vs. 39% in 2022) — trailing far behind the other four decision-making factors, as it has every year of the survey — perhaps a reflection of the resurgence of other factors like price.

While a similar number (35%) said that “climate friendliness” impacted their choices about at least some of the foods they eat, 43% said it didn’t make much or any impact at all. Millennials were the most likely to report such impacts (46%), followed by Gen Z (39%), Gen X (38%) and Boomers (22%).

Among those who said climate friendliness impacted their choices about specific foods, meat and poultry topped the list (62% of those respondents), followed by fresh fruits/vegetables (55%) and dairy (50%).

When respondents were asked which factors they considered to be indicators of sustainability, 43% cited recyclable packaging, followed by reusable packaging (37%), packaging made from recycled materials (36%) and being labeled as locally grown (35%).


The 2023 Food and Health Survey was conducted by Greenwald Research, using Dynata’s consumer panel, via an online survey of 1,022 Americans ages 18 to 80 between April 3 and April 10, 2023. The results were weighted to ensure that they are reflective of the American population, as seen in the 2022 Current Population Survey. Specifically, they were weighted by age, education, gender, race/ethnicity and region.