Most Americans say they are either trying to lose or maintain weight by changing the amount of food they eat (71 percent), changing the types of foods they eat (65 percent), engaging in physical activity (62 percent), changing how often they eat (44 percent) and counting calories (19 percent).

That’s the conclusion of a month-long online survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, Washington, D.C. IFIC said it conducted its 2009 Food & Health Survey, “Consumer Attitudes toward Food, Nutrition & Health,” between Feb. 19 and March 11.

When asked about hurdles to staying on track, 44 percent of respondents said they didn’t see results quickly, 43 percent expressed a lack of will power and 40 percent noted a lack of time.

Confusion about the relationship between calories and weight gain may also inhibit progress. Only 30 percent believe that calories in general are what cause weight gain, while just 11 percent correctly estimated the number of calories a person of their age, weight and height should consume per day. Close to half (47 percent) overestimated, 16 percent underestimated and 26 percent didn’t even venture to guess.

The findings suggest educational opportunities for retail packaged food processors and their supermarket customers.

“Consumers crave consistency and they really want us to talk in positive terms about what they should be eating, instead of what they shouldn’t eat,” noted Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, IFIC’s director of health and nutrition. “We need to provide alternatives, positive choices to consumers, so they can improve their health.”