CHICAGO ? Although the intended behaviors of many adult US consumers are in line with the recently released 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the practice of those intentions lags behind, according to The NPD Group, a market research firm.

According to NPD’s food market research, one major gap between what US adults, ages 18 and over, say they are going to do and what they do is in the area of exercise. Another is in the area of meal complexity and frequency. Although eating smaller, more frequent meals was the intention of 44% of adults, only 29% in reality practice this. Another gap regards caloric intake. Although 53% said they were going to limit their calorie intake, only 38% of consumers said they are truly doing this.

A gap between actual behavior and future intentions exists on all dimensions of healthy eating behavior, said Dori Hickey, director of product development at NPD. “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,” she added.

Weight loss and living longer are the prime motivators for maintaining healthy eating habits for the younger generations, the NPD study finds. Among older generations, living longer and feeling good take on greater importance while losing weight is less important to these consumers. The key lifestyle drivers behind most consumers’ eating decisions are convenience, taste and affordability, NPD said.