Fortification and added healthy ingredients play strong roles in food purchases perceived as healthy, rather than the absence of ingredients like sugar, saturated fat and sodium, according to a new FMI survey.

The 19th annual Shopping for Health survey from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Arlington, Va., andPrevention magazine reports that consumer perceptions about what defines food as healthy are changing. Consumers are moving away from consideration of undesirable characteristics, such as high levels of saturated fat, sugar, sodium or calories and are starting to pay greater attention to inclusion of healthy ingredients and fortification with specific nutrients.

“While the main criteria for healthy foods was previously determined by ingredients it did not contain, today’s shoppers are now instead wondering what’s in their food, seeking to better understand the nutritional components of what they eat,” says Cary Silvers, director of consumer insights atPrevention.

The survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,579 U.S. adult primary grocery shoppers surveyed in November and December of last year indicated fiber as the most sought-after ingredient, with 44% of respondents saying they look for it as a mark of healthfulness. Fiber was followed by whole grain (36%), protein (27%), Omega-3s (23%) and antioxidants (16%).

As far as health claims are concerned, heart health topped the list of on-pack claims that most appeal to consumers, with 73% saying that heart-health claims matter when buying foods, followed by other label claims such as more energy (71%), digestive health (66%) and improving mind health (65%).

“As schedules become busier and awareness of health issues increase, the consumer demand for healthful options that are quick and easy for families will grow,” says FMI president and CEO Leslie Sarasin.