CHICAGO — Consumers are looking for more healthful options at restaurants, but they define healthy eating based on the quality of the food and not fewer calories, according to “Consumers Define Healthy Eating When They Go Out to Eat,” a new report from The NPD Group.

“Typically, the perception has been that healthy eating to consumers means low calories and low fat, and our findings show that the perception is not the reality,” said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at NPD. “Clearly, descriptors like fresh or natural will resonate more with consumers than less calories.”

The report found a significant amount of food service traffic is driven by healthy eating, and one of the top reasons for eating healthier is to feel healthier. But the features consumers are looking for include fresh, natural and nutritious ingredients with fewer calories being among the least important features.

Consumers still place a high importance on taste, and some consumers believe healthier foods are not as tasteful. Consumers also expect to pay the same for healthier foods as those considered less healthy.

“Understanding these trends provide food service operators and manufacturers with the opportunity to offer products that meet consumers’ needs for healthier options,” Ms. Riggs said. “More consumers are seeking healthy/light foods, and having these options available on menus will meet these consumers’ needs; however, healthful menu options must be fresh, taste good and be affordably priced.”