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Americans Eating Fewer Vegetables

5 a Day for Fruits and Vegetables? No Way, Surveys Show
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 19, 2007 -- A new report shows Americans are actually getting worse at eating their vegetables.

This is hardly the first study to document dismal diet habits. Last week, the CDC gave U.S. adults poor marks for fruit and vegetable consumption.

Now, researchers from Johns Hopkins University confirm that Americans aren't getting better at eating fruits and vegetables -- even though public health officials urge them to do so.

The Johns Hopkins study shows that, among U.S. adults, fruit consumption is holding steady, but vegetable consumption is headed down -- even if you count french fries.

The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Fruit, Vegetable Consumption

Johns Hopkins University's Tiffany Gary, PhD, and colleagues reviewed data from two national health surveys.

The first survey, conducted from 1988 to 1994, included nearly 15,000 U.S. adults. The second survey, done between 1999 and 2002, included about 8,900 U.S. adults.

In both, participants reported everything they had eaten during the previous 24 hours. Then researchers checked how many people met these goals:

  • Two or more servings of fruit, including fresh fruit, dried fruit, and 100% fruit juice
  • Three or more servings of vegetables (fried potatoes count).

These goals have been touted since 1991 as part of the national campaign to get Americans to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But apparently, most people aren't heeding the message.

Few Met Goals

In the earlier survey, 27% of participants met the fruit consumption goal vs. 28% in the later survey.

But the percentage meeting the vegetable consumption goal fell from 35% in the earlier survey to 32% in the one started about a decade later.

Fruit consumption basically stayed the same while vegetable consumption dropped slightly, note the researchers.

In addition, vegetable eaters appear to be in a bit of a rut. They tended to eat several servings of the same vegetable, showing little dietary diversity.

In each survey, only 11% met both goals.

Whites, college graduates, older adults, and people with higher incomes were more likely to meet the goals for fruit and vegetable consumption.

New Campaign

Today, the nonprofit Produce for Better Health Foundation launched a national effort to promote fruit and vegetable consumption.

The campaign, called "Fruits & Veggies -- More Matters," encourages Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gives these tips to help you meet your fruit and vegetable goals:

  • Keep a bowl of fruit handy.
  • Go for variety.
  • Serve a salad with dinner.
  • Add beans to chili or soup.
  • If you're ordering pizza, add some veggie toppings.
  • Put chopped vegetables in pasta sauce or lasagna.
  • Dip fresh fruit in low-fat yogurt or pudding.
  • Dip raw veggies in low-fat salad dressing.

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