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Most American Adults Not Eating Enough Fruits, Vegetables

Although eating more fruits and vegetables adds nutrients to a person’s diet, reduces their risk for disease and helps manage body weight, very few American adults are including them at mealtime.

In fact, only one in 10 American adults actually eats the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables, according to a report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal researchers interviewed hundreds of thousands of Americans in a 2013 telephone survey to collect the data.

Health authorities say the problems vary across the country with some states faring betters than others. Virginia matched the dismal national averages with 13 percent of adults meeting the fruit recommendations and only 9 percent eating enough vegetables daily. Californians reported eating the most fruits (18 percent met the guidelines) and vegetables (13 percent).

The findings come at a time when doctors and Registered Dietitians have been urging people to replace salty, fatty and sugary foods with fruits and vegetables – much healthier choices.

How much fruit and vegetables each person needs per day depends on their age, gender and level of physical activity. A good rule of thumb is to make half your plate – at every meal – fruits and vegetables.

The problem could be addressed by promoting fruits and vegetables in grocery stores and restaurants and making them more accessible in community settings and at work, federal health officials wrote in their report.

“For example, work sites can make it easier for employees to make healthy food choices and create social norms that support healthy eating by creating policies to ensure that fruits and vegetables are provided at work-site gatherings, including meetings, conferences and other events,” the report states.

It’s not just adults who aren’t eating enough fresh and non-processed foods – 60 percent of children ate less fruits than recommended and 93 percent consumed fewer vegetables than recommended.

Instilling better eating habits earlier in life might lead to better practices later in life, federal authorities wrote. Places where children learn and play can have a strong role in improving their diet.

“School districts, schools, and early care and education providers can help increase children’s fruit and vegetable consumption by meeting or exceeding current federal nutrition standards for meals and snacks, serving fruit and vegetables whenever food is offered and training staff to make fruit and vegetables more appealing and accessible,” the report recommends.

Adding fruits and veggies to your diet only takes a few minutes of planning. Consider these tips from the CDC:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Grab fresh or dried fruit to eat on the go. Bananas make an easy portable fruit.
  • Bring cut-up vegetables or fruit from home when you will need a snack somewhere.
  • Add fruits and vegetables to your favorite snack or recipe. Parents can often “hide” vegetables by adding pureed ones to muffins or casserole dishes.
  • Always serve fruit and vegetables to party guests.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report July 2015

+ Learn how to choose healthier foods for better nutrition and weight loss through the Nutritional Analysis program at Bon Secours In Motion.

+ Does a child in your life need help losing weight and making better food choices? The Youth and Fitness program at Bon Secours Sports Performance specializes in helping children of all ages improve their health through physical activity and nutrition.