Furthermore, there's a significant generation gap in this behavior: Just 12% of Millennials (18-34) report dieting last year, versus more than a quarter of Boomers.
Dieting behavior still increases by age cohort, and Millennials are expected to diet more as they age, notes Harry Balzer, NPD chief industry analyst and author of Eating Patterns in America.
However, the data confirm that older as well as younger consumers have shown significant declines in dieting since 1991.
In 1991, the percentages of those who dieted were 20% among those 18 to 34; 25% among those 35 to 44; 35% among those 45 to 54; 42% among those 55 to 64; and 48% among those 65 and older. Last year, those percentages declined, respectively, to 12%, 16%, 20%, 24% and 29%.
While 57% of all adults still report that they would like to lose 20 pounds, they are increasingly defining health in ways other than dieting, according to Balzer.
"Dieting is not the only way to address your health these days," he says. "Dieting is difficult and requires a change in habits," whereas it's much easier to eat more healthfully by adding good foods to one's diet and avoiding foods with unhealthy or harmful substances.
For example, 72% of adults now report that they eat reduced-fat foods; nearly 45% eat foods with whole grains
on a regular basis; and 24% include organic foods and beverages in their diets, according to NPD.
"Woman eating salad" photo from Shutterstock.