CHICAGO — U.S. adults understand basic concepts of healthy eating but how they implement this varies by generation, according to “Healthy Eating Strategies by Generation,” a report from The NPD Group.

The report found older generations eat more healthfully than younger generations, but four out of five adults still need improvement in their diet.

Across the generations was consistency on what defines healthy eating and living, including exercising regularly, eating well-balanced meals, eating in moderation, avoiding foods with saturated fat, cholesterol or trans fats and drinking plenty of water.

“Educating consumers about proper health and nutrition need not be the primary goal for food manufacturers,” said Dori Hickey, director of product development at NPD and author of the report. “Connecting the dots for consumers in terms of a product benefit to a fundamental characteristic of healthy eating is more the challenge.”

Consumers also place emphasis on the nutritional value of foods with nearly 85 million adults ranking the nutritional and healthful value of foods being first or second priority as a driver in deciding what to eat and drink. For the younger generations, price and value are in the top three priorities, and for older consumers freshness replaces price and value in importance.

Overall, the largest problem with diets across the board is not enough fruits, vegetables and dairy products and too much fat, NPD said.

“It comes down to adult consumers needing help to improve the healthfulness of their diets,” Ms. Hickey said. “Knowing which consumer groups need the most help and understand how to address consumers’ current and future needs and desires for healthy foods is the opportunity for food and beverage marketers.”