CHICAGO – Almost half of US adults recognize the need to make changes to their diet, despite an overly positive assessment of their own health, according to a new study from Chicago-based NPD Group, a market research company.

Eight out of 10 adults describe themselves as “extremely healthy” or “very healthy”, but only one-in-five adults have a “most healthy” diet and 65 percent of adults’ body mass index (BMI) is in the overweight or obese range. Researchers believe that consumers define differently the idea of healthy eating in terms of adding or taking something out of their diets.

Dieting traditionally involves removing food items from one’s diet. However, The NPD Group found that 51 percent of the 1,921 adults surveyed said healthy eating is equally adding to and taking out of their diet, while 26 percent said that “adding something to the diet” is healthy eating. Only 19 percent defined healthy eating as “taking something out” of the diet.

US consumers increasingly are adding functional foods such as vitamins and other supplements to their diets, while removing less-healthy foods and beverages.

“A huge opportunity exists to increase functional product usage among adults, and teens, who have already tried functional products at some point but are not using them on a daily basis,” said Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “If the 118 million less frequent adult users could be encouraged to include just one more functional food or beverage into their diet each week, this would result in an increase of over 6 billion eatings each year.”

The Market for Functional Foods report found that vitamin supplement usage is increasing among both children and adults. Consumers are also turning to functional foods and beverages as healthy additions to their diets. Functional foods and drinks offer additional, pro-active health benefits beyond basic nutrition, such as fortified with whole grains or probiotics. Nearly 80 million consumers indicated a strong interest in functional foods and beverages, and one-in-four adults already are using a functional food or beverage at least once a day, The NPD Group said.