Diet and Eating Habits


The ubiquity of food in developed nations does not necessarily imply that people will choose healthy options, nor does the scarcity of food in some developing areas imply poor eating habits. RAND research on diet and eating habits investigates economic and social factors behind such concerns as diet choices, nutrition, access to foods, obesity, and weight loss.

  • Report

    How Calorie Labels on Menus Affect Consumers

    In traditional restaurant settings, displaying the calorie content on menus did not affect consumer satisfaction and reduced the amount of food ordered by 38 calories. This is a decrease of 7 percent, a notable difference considering the average American consumes one-third of his or her food calories away from home.

    Mar 28, 2018

  • Commentary

    We Are What We Eat: Understanding Food Consumption for Healthier and More Sustainable Diets

    Despite a rise in ethical and sustainable eating, most people still make their food choices based on price, convenience, and taste. What policies can help support more healthy decisionmaking?

    Aug 12, 2020

Explore Diet and Eating Habits

  • Periodical


    RAND Review: July-August 2015

    This issue of RAND Review reports on the economic costs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, healthy menu options for food trucks, ways to bridge the civilian-military gap, the depiction of terrorism on television, and more.

    Jul 2, 2015

  • Customers in line at a food truck


    Putting Health to the (Taste) Test

    Researchers teamed up with a dozen Los Angeles lunch trucks to test healthier menu items—chicken breasts and grilled fish alongside the usual tacos and hamburgers.

    Jul 1, 2015

  • Woman consulting shopping list in grocery store

    Journal Article

    Using a Grocery List May Lead to Better Health Outcomes

    A shopping list may be a no-cost, easily implemented tool to help high-risk, low-income individuals living in a food desert make healthier food choices.

    May 12, 2015

  • A bacon double cheeseburger with fries, pickles, and tomato on the side


    Regulators Should Insist Food Providers “First, Do No Harm”

    Everyone needs food, water, and shelter, yet society offers protective standards and regulations for just two of these three essentials. Food regulations focus on preventing illnesses like botulism, but when it comes to chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes, regulations offer little protection to U.S. consumers.

    Apr 8, 2015

  • African-American woman looking down

    Journal Article

    Depression May Increase Obesity Risk

    Significant links were found between depression, poor nutrition, and obesity in a low-income, primarily African-American “food desert” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mental health interventions may have broader benefits in this population.

    Mar 11, 2015

  • Woman comparing soda labels in a supermarket


    Supermarkets Are the Problem

    Thirty percent of all supermarket sales can be attributed to end-of-aisle displays, where retailers have placed more foods that increase the risk of obesity and chronic diseases. Relocating those foods to less conspicuous places would still allow those who want them to get them, but the decision to buy would be deliberate rather than impulsive.

    Feb 26, 2015

  • Lunch on a busy workday: a hamburger and soda

    Journal Article

    Associations Between Eating Occasions and Places of Consumption Among Adults

    The objective of this study was to determine whether places of consumption are associated with types of eating occasions.

    Jan 23, 2015

  • Attention-getting sale balloon at a grocery store

    Journal Article

    In-Store Promotions and Obesity Risk: Is There a Connection?

    A close look at marketing tactics (like special displays and price cuts) in Pittsburgh

    Jan 7, 2015

  • A blurry convenience store aisle


    A New Year's Resolution: Target Practices That Undermine Weight Control

    Many will vow to lose weight in the coming year, but most will inevitably fail, not from lack of motivation or knowledge but from insuperable forces undermining their best intentions. America should resolve to address obesity where it begins: the point of purchase.

    Dec 29, 2014

  • A woman reading a menu at a restaurant


    Calorie Labels Won't Fix America's Problem with Away-From-Home Food

    The FDA's new guidelines for calorie labeling on restaurant menus, retail establishments like convenience stores and movie theaters, and vending machines are a long-due recognition that eating away from home can be hazardous to health. But the new mandate falls far short of providing the necessary fix.

    Dec 10, 2014

  • The view from a shopping cart at a grocery store

    Journal Article

    Improved Access May Not Be the Key to Addressing Food Deserts

    As part of the ongoing battle to fight obesity in the U.S., current policies are aimed at improving access to healthy foods, especially in neighborhoods designated as food deserts. However, research indicates proximity to full-service supermarkets was unrelated to weight or dietary quality.

    Dec 9, 2014

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    The Response of an Expert Panel to Nutritional Armor for the Warfighter: Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Enhance Stress Resilience, Wellness, and Military Performance?

    Recommendations of an Expert Panel on 5 central questions addressed during the workshop.

    Dec 1, 2014

  • College students in a cafeteria line


    To Fight Obesity, Make UC a Laboratory

    With its Global Food Initiative, the University of California is seeking ways to help the billion people who go to bed hungry each night. At the same time, UC could also be addressing obesity. Experimenting with changes to the food environment and documenting their impact on diet and weight gain would accelerate progress on this national problem not just for students, but for all Americans.

    Oct 30, 2014

  • Fresh produce at a grocery store


    Location, Location, Location: Does the Food Desert Narrative Hold Up?

    There's little rigorous evidence to support the notion that 'food deserts' are driving the U.S. obesity epidemic but this narrative has nearly become conventional wisdom. In response, stakeholders have poured hundreds of millions into bringing supermarkets to these neighborhoods.

    Oct 28, 2014

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Implications of Sleep and Energy Drink Use for Health Disparities

    In this review, a brief introduction to the issue of health disparities is provided, population-level disparities and inequalities in sleep are described, and the social-ecological model of sleep and health is presented.

    Oct 1, 2014

  • Obese man in a crowd

    Research Brief

    Too Much of a Good Thing? How the Economic Environment Plays a Role in the Obesity Epidemic

    RAND researchers looking at the growth of obesity rates over time found that the epidemic has been fueled by historically low food prices relative to income and constant availability, which have driven high consumption.

    Aug 22, 2014

  • Food court signs in Las Vegas


    Always Hungry? Here's the Real Reason Why

    The problem of obesity cannot be attributed to a single dietary or physiological factor, like too much sugar, too much fat, or even factors like viruses, bacteria, and endocrine disrupters. The real problem is that Americans now live in a food swamp and there is just too much food easily available.

    Aug 15, 2014

  • Shopping basket in supermarket


    What's Behind the Obesity Epidemic? Easily Accessible Food, and Lots of It

    That no group is immune to rising obesity rates suggests that universal environmental factors are driving the trend. The clearest change concerns food availability and cost.

    Jul 22, 2014

  • Woman sitting at a desk looking at her watch


    I'm Too Busy for Exercise I Just Don't Have the Time

    As hard as it can be to make time for exercise, failing to do so isn't a time-saver. It might seem so for a day or two, but you will feel the result of not exercising in the reductions in your energy, ability to focus and cope, and in your quality of sleep.

    Jul 17, 2014

  • Young woman cycling


    Take the Morality Out of Health Choices: Stop the Blame Game

    Framing positive health behaviors as good or virtuous and less effective or harmful ones as bad trips most people up on a regular basis. People would do well to think of positive health behaviors—such as getting a good night's sleep or eating healthy foods—as doing what works, rather than as being virtuous.

    Jul 10, 2014

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