Americans Fail in Fruit and Veggie Consumption

Only six percent of U.S. adults eat their vegetables

American teens and adults are flunking in the effort to eat more fruits and vegetables. And kids aren’t doing much better. A new report card released by the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance (NFVA) gave kids a “D,” and the rest of us an “F” for our progress (or lack thereof) in consuming more fruits and vegetable over the past five years.

In 2005, the NFVA, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), developed a national action plan to improve our sad state of fruit and vegetable consumption. Their report details what changes Americans have made since then. The news, as you might guess from our below-average grades, isn’t good.

Americans have not succeeded in adding more vegetables to their diets. Over the past five years, our consumption has fallen by two percent. Currently, only six percent of U.S. adults get enough vegetables every day. And our fruit intake is only slightly better -- with eight percent of us meeting the recommendations.

While dietary guidelines suggest we eat four to six cups of produce a day -- depending on our size -- we’re averaging 1.81 cups. However, some of us are doing better than others. Since 2004, those who have increased their fruit consumption by five percent are children under 12; 18- to 34-year-old men; and women between the ages of 18 and 54. During that same time, nobody increased his or her intake of veggies by that much. Instead, consumption fell by five percent or more in teens and seniors.

Our littlest ones get points for most improvement. For kids under six, fruit consumption climbed by 11 percent, while kids’ vegetable consumption grew by three percent. Though laudable, 88 percent of children do not eat their recommended amount of fruit and 92 percent do not eat their recommended amount of vegetables.

Seriously, why does everyone hate veggies so much? If I were them, I’d be suffering from some pretty low self-esteem right now.

This year, I probably ate enough vegetables for my entire neighborhood. Last week marked my last delivery of crops from our CSA, which stands for community-sponsored agriculture. For those who haven’t heard of CSAs, they allow you to buy a share of crops from your local farm. You pay a fee at the beginning of the season, and each week, the farm delivers boxes of whatever is ready for harvest. The result: tons of fresh, locally grown vegetables for the entire growing season. Having only two mouths to feed, it provided us with a ridiculous amount of vegetables. I hate to waste food as it is, but there was something about the personal nature of belonging to a farm that made me adamant to use every piece of produce that came my way, even if I’d never seen it before. I looked for the best recipes I could find and prepared each vegetable dish with the attention to detail one would usually reserve for the main course. What I discovered: I often liked my vegetable dishes better than my meaty mains. This, coming from someone who lovingly devours ribs, veal, rabbit and whatever other slabs of animal come her way.

So I was intrigued to see a recent article in New York magazine proclaiming vegetables to be the new meat. Apparently, the chicest, most upscale restaurants in New York are embracing “vegivorism,” where vegetables take center stage on our plates and meat is relegated to a flavoring or side. Think brussels sprouts with bacon.

In the nutrition world, this isn’t exactly revolutionary thinking. Dieticians will tell you that in any given meal, produce should take up half of your plate. Whole grains and meat split the other half equally. Still, I do hope that this new eating style will give fruit and vegetables the glam factor they need to make people consume them happily.

How many fruits and veggies are you getting a day, and how do you fit more into your diet? Chime in below.

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