Shocking news. American adults are not eating their fruits and vegetables. Wait, isn’t pizza sauce a vegetable? No? Well, damn. A new study by researchers at the CDC has less than 15 percent of adults eating enough fruits and vegetables to hit the recommended federal guidelines.
I’m hoping taxpayers avoid a giant bill for an obvious result. More than two-thirds of Americans are considered overweight or obese. Anecdotally, you can say the vast majority are not eating the daily recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.
While the 15 percent number is terrible, state-by-state numbers paint an even bleaker picture. Tennessee saw the number of adults hitting daily fruit guidelines dip to 7.5 percent.
Latetia Moore, PhD, lead author from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC, explained the center’s ability to gather more accurate statistics.
“Fruit and vegetable intake has been persistently low for years, but we just recently developed a way to look at how each state is doing in terms of meeting recommendations.”
What the report shows is a glaring gap between what we should be eating, and what we are eating.
The team used the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to survey all 50 states. It used a new scoring system to analyze state-reported numbers. Both ‘cups per day’ and ‘frequency of intake’ were used.
How often was the average American eating fruit in 2013? Less than once per day. Vegetables fared a bit better, hitting 1.7 times per day on average. Both are terrible statistics and do not bode well for public health.
“All types of fruits and vegetables count, but the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most of our fruit intake come from whole fruit rather than fruit juice and that we eat fruits and vegetables that have limited amounts of added sugars and solid fat,” Moore said. “The guidelines also recommend that we increase our intake of dark green and orange vegetables as well as beans.”
The numbers being posted by the CDC rely on self-reporting, so there can be inherent bias. Even with self-reporting, only 13 percent of Americans said they consumed enough fruit to hit the daily intake. The number collapsed for vegetables, with 8.9 percent saying they consumed enough every day.
“Fruits and vegetables are major contributors of important nutrients that are typically lacking from Americans’ diets and they can protect against many leading causes of illness and death like heart disease, stroke and some cancers,” Moore said. “Eating fruits and vegetables in place of foods that are high in calories, added sugars, and solid fat can also help with weight management.”
Eating More Fruits and Vegetables
We have a problem as a country. We are staring down the abyss of a completely preventable epidemic. How can we change our ways and make it easier to consume more fruits and vegetables.
For one, we can lifehack it. Eating the multiple servings of raw vegetables can be a pain in the ass. A perfect way around that is to use those same raw vegetables and fruits in smoothies. Nearly all of us have a blender. Two smoothies a day and we are on our way to smashing the daily intake numbers.
Pricing is another issue. Eating healthy can be damn expensive. Don’t expect your grocery store to suddenly become altruistic, so it’ time to get creative. Most communities are near a farmer’s market. You’ll get better deals than a local grocery store, and you’re supporting your neighbors.
If a farmer’s market is out of reach, turn towards price matching. While apples can easily stretch past $3 per pound, you can keep watch for sales. Go to stores that price match and build out your weekly meal plan that way.
Other options include getting fruits and vegetables displayed more prominently in workplaces and schools. Promote the displays more heavily.
And to show the immediate benefits of eating fresh fruit and vegetables? Eat a candy bar today. Notice how you feel terrible? Now eat an apple. You feel immensely better. I know, it blows my mind I buy candy bars only to eat fruits and vegetables and wonder why the hell I’m not just eating this.
There are ways to kick this problem’s ass, but it will involve effort on the part of everyone.
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