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NPD: Most Americans don’t act on dietary guidelines

When it comes to following nutritional guidelines, American diners have good intentions but do not walk the walk.

That was the conclusion market research firm The NPD Group reached about this country’s evolving healthful eating behavior.

Following the publication last month of the 2010 dietary guidelines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, NPD took a look at what Americans were saying about the recommended healthful eating strategies.

The Chicago-based firm found that 53 percent of adults said they intend to limit their calorie intake, yet only 38 percent said they actually are doing so, based on the firm’s continual tracking of consumer behavior.

Another 44 percent said they intend to eat smaller, more frequent meals, but only 29 percent of consumers actually practice the recommendation, according to NPD.

“A gap between actual behavior and future intentions exists on all dimensions of healthy eating behavior,” said Dori Hickey, NPD’s director of product development and author of the report. “The key is to find ways to bridge the gap by making it easier for consumers to put into practice their intentions by understanding what will motivate them to eat and live more healthfully.”

And it’s not just their eating habits that Americans fall short on.

According to their data, 62 percent of adult consumers said they intend to exercise regularly, but only 46 percent said they actually do.

Still, weight loss and living longer are prime motivators for maintaining healthy eating habits for younger generations, NPD concluded.

Older consumers say they are motivated by a desire to live longer and feel good, and less by the need to lose weight.

Underlying all factors are key lifestyle drivers that impact most consumers’ dining choices: convenience, taste and affordability.

“It comes down to focusing on the motivators for healthier eating,” Hickey said. “The first step is to make sure that messages are relevant to the group of consumers being targeted, as motivations vary by generation.”

At the same time, Hickey added, “it’s important not to lose sight of the taste, convenience and value. These are primary drivers of food choice overall for all generations.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

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