Many Adults Don’t Get Enough Fruits, Vegetables

Whole fruits are preferable because they provide fiber and are more satisfying, due to the fiber, water and the act of chewing, she explained.

When it comes to fruit, about two-thirds of Americans polled said they had at least one serving per day, often whole fruit. About 30% had citrus, melon, or berries, while 47% said they had some other form of whole fruit.

That, Ansai said, was down from 1999 and 2000, when 77% of Americans surveyed said they consumed fruit every day.

The reason for the downward trend is unclear. But Diekman suspected that this might reflect a growing distrust of added sugars hidden in store-bought juices.

Health experts have long encouraged Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables. But it takes more than advice to change people’s diets, especially those of low-income Americans, according to Tamara Dubowitz. She is a senior policy researcher with the RAND Corporation, a non-profit research organization.

Dubowitz said that federal programs like Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and SNAP (the “Food Stamp” program) have been “extremely important” in helping families purchase nutritious foods.

But there are many factors that can keep low-income Americans from putting healthy meals on the table.

“Our research has shown that food is affected by all sectors – from housing security, to access to affordable food, to the quality of education,” Dubowitz said.

The solution therefore involves “much more than food policy”, she added.

“It is also housing policy, labor policy and land use policy,” Dubowitz said.

Ansai agreed on the importance of broad efforts to make healthy eating accessible to more Americans.

For individuals, Diekman said the ideal is to eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables – green, reds, oranges and all other colors – over the course of a week.

There is a place for home-squeezed vegetables, Diekman said, because some people find them convenient and tasty. But, she added, “I suggest saving the solid for adding to soups or stews, preserving the nutrition.”

The NCHS released the survey results on February 5 in the Summary of NCHS data.

More information

The US Department of Agriculture has tips for healthy eating on a budget.

SOURCES: Nicholas Ansai, MPH, Division of National Health Surveys and Nutritional Examinations, US National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, Maryland; Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, Food and Nutrition Consultant, St. Louis; Tamara Dubowitz, ScD, MSc, Senior Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh; Summary of NCHS data, February 5, 2021

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