CHICAGO — Foodservice operators continue to develop healthier meals for consumers, but it seems consumers have other ideas when dining out, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research firm.

NPD found only 24 percent of consumers eat healthy meals when they dine out, while more than half of respondents said they are healthy eaters at home. So while foodservice operators continue offering healthier fare on menus or posting calorie counts and other nutritional information, consumers see dining out as a time to indulge, NPD reported in Healthy at Foodservice — Consumer Expectations Put in Perspective. The foodservice market research report states that consumers are looking for meals they don't make at home. They're looking for quick, unique and indulgent foods.

The most often mentioned reason for not selecting healthy menu items when dining out include eating what they want to eat and indulging, according to NPD. Other reasons cited were not paying attention to healthfulness when ordering and not having to eat healthy. At least 18 percent of respondents said eating healthy is not a priority for them.

“It would benefit foodservice operators to promote the message that eating healthy at restaurants doesn’t always mean giving up your favorite foods,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst. “Providing the opportunity for menu customization will keep these healthier diners happy, while also satisfying the tastes of the more indulgent consumers.”

And it seems all is not lost for restaurants working to provide healthier fare — even consumers seeking an indulgent dining-out experience tend to put a healthy twist to their meals. NPD found there are aspects of healthy they are looking for such as fresh ingredients and appropriate portion sizes. Additionally, that 24 percent of consumers who do eat healthy when dining out are more likely to either switch proteins, the preparation method or have extras on the side.