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Healthy eating is in, dieting out

health-and-fitness Updated: Jan 05, 2008 17:49 IST

Reuters
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Dieting has fallen out of favour while trying to eat more "healthfully" is in, a marketing research firm that tracks what Americans consume said on Friday.

Twenty-nine percent of women and 19 percent of men are on diets, based on the responses of 26,000 American adults, compared to 10 years ago when 35 percent of women and 23 percent of men said they were dieting, according to Port Washington, New York-based NPD Group Inc.

"The problem with diets is most people feel deprived, or they're disappointed with the results. Of course, results will come if you stick with it," NPD Vice President Harry Balzer said in a telephone interview. "But people see dieting as not a long-term healthful way to live."

Improving overall health was the prime motivation for 68 percent of those on a diet, according to the survey, which was sponsored by the Milk Processor Education Program, promoter of the "Got Milk?" advertising campaign.

"We've become more accepting of our weight and the most important thing is, are you healthy?" Balzer said.

The most popular diet was one dieters made up for themselves -- helped by more detailed nutritional labels on packaged foods and a plethora of guides to slimming down.

One-third of the dieters in NPD's surveys said they had formulated their own approach, usually through portion control, and 9 percent subscribed to an "extreme diet" calling for either severe calorie reductions or eliminating a food group such as carbohydrates.

Adults' desire to lose weight -- specifically, 20 pounds (9 kg) in NPD's surveys -- is one thing that has not shifted much since topping out in 2001 at around 60 percent, Balzer said. The portion of U.S. adults who are overweight has plateaued at around 62 percent, he noted.

Eight out of 10 dieters said their goal was both to lose weight and improve their health -- a sign of growing acceptance that a healthy weight may not equate to slimness.

The percentage of adults who viewed an overweight person as unattractive has dropped to 25 percent from more than 50 percent in past decades, Balzer said.

Despite the penchant for healthier eating, many Americans still opt for convenience, as NPD's surveys and the array of fast-food restaurants in many communities showed, Balzer said.

"The problem with fresh vegetables is they're not easy," he said. "Most important is how much does it cost and how easy it is to get it? A secondary factor is how healthy is it?"