American Adults Aren't Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables, Says CDC Study

American Adults Aren't Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables, Says CDC Study
Image: Pixabay
July 13, 2015

Despite plenty of attention given to the latest trends in food and fitness, a government report finds that American adults still aren't eating enough fruits and vegetables.

A whopping 76 percent of Americans don't eat enough fruit and 87 percent don't eat enough vegetables, according to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study published this week.

Health advocates and government officials alike recommend that adults who engaged in less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day should eat 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily. In a study that analyzed the eating habits of about 373, 600 people, between 2007 and 2010 half of the total U.S. population eat less than 1 cup of fruit and less than 1.5 cups of vegetables.

On the state level, about 13 percent of respondents to the national survey ate the recommended amount of fruit, ranging from 7.5 percent in Tennessee to 17.7 percent in California. Not surprisingly, California also had the highest number of vegetable eaters with 13 percent of respondents eating the recommended amount. About 5.5 percent of Mississippians met the recommendation.

How to Increase your Intake

We get it. We need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Changing your dietary habits can be confusing and overwhelming.

When you really think about it a cup isn't really that much. The American Cancer Society says that a half-a-cup of fruits or vegetables is about half the size of a baseball. It's a rough estimate, but the visualization can be helpful when trying to figure out your own daily intake. Of course, if you want to be really accurate, use a measuring cup.

Leafy greens, like spinach or lettuce, need to be doubled. So you need two cups of spinach to hit one cup of your recommended daily intake. Dried fruit on the other hand, can be cut in half. A half cup of fried fruit equals one cup fresh.

For easy estimates, figure that one big piece of fruit, like a banana, is about one cup.

The Kitchn also has photos of what a recommended portion looks like on a plate.

Thankfully, there are some easy ways to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables you put on your plate.

Add fruit to your breakfast

Add strawberries, bananas, blueberries and other colorful fruits to your morning cereal or oatmeal or load up that omelet with onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach and other vegetables. Many grocery stores sell pre-made fruit salads. Have a small bowl on the side.

Drink your Fruit and Vegetables

Rejoice juice lovers. The CDC says that 100 percent fruit juice does count as a fruit. Add a glass at breakfast, but watch the sugar. You can also break out the blender and make yourself a smoothie. Experiment with different fruit and vegetable flavors. Make them in advance for an easy grab-and-go drink on the way to work.

Sneak in a Snack

Midmorning or midafternoon snacks help keep you from getting too hungry before lunch or dinner. Munch on carrot sticks, orange slices, or applesauce for another ½ cup.

Food Prep

Let's face it. Prepping vegetables to be used for dinner can be time consuming. Sometimes it's just easier to skip it altogether. Frozen vegetables are your friends and can really cut down this prep time. If you want to go fresh, carve out a chunk of time on Sunday to cut all of your vegetables and store them in bags or containers for use during the week. The less time it takes to make dinner, the more likely you are to include different produce.

Double the Veggies

If you already plan on using vegetables, double the amount. In many dishes adding more vegetables won't throw your recipe out of whack. Double the vegetables on your pizza, in your soup, and in your casseroles. If you're going out to eat, ask for double vegetables on the side. French fries don't count. Sorry.

Seek out Farmers Markets

We don't want to knock grocery-store produce, but it's hard to beat the taste of fresh-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables. A fresh carrot has a distinctly different flavor from one that has been sitting on the shelves. Farmers markets often have in season vegetables from local growers that could be picked as recently as that morning. In season produce can also be cheaper direct from the farm than from the grocery store.