Check Your Fruit and Veggie Intake

Fruit and vegetable recommendations not met by many US adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Remember how mom always told you to eat your veggies? Turns out many adults didn’t listen.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that most US adults didn’t eat the recommended amounts for fruits and vegetables — with substantial variation by state.

"Because fruit and vegetable consumption affects multiple health outcomes and is currently low across all states, continued efforts are needed to increase demand and consumption," wrote study authors Latetia V. Moore, PhD, of the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, and Frances E. Thompson, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues. "Improving fruit and vegetable consumption for adults might start with improving intake during childhood."

Mary Finckenor, MA, RD, a dietitian, diabetes educator and sports nutritionist for the Chambers Center for Wellbeing in Morristown, NJ, offered some advice on how adults can increase their intake of fruits and vegetables.

"A good rule of thumb is to have a fruit or vegetable at every meal, and for vegetables specifically, have them at every lunch and dinner — in a vegetable-rich soup (think butternut squash, tomato, minestrone), salad, raw or cooked," Finckenor, who was not involved in the current study, told dailyRx News. "Another recommendation is to start by increasing consistency before variety. If you only like three vegetables, start there. Having them consistently is so much better than not and you can always increase the variety later."

As for snacks, Finckenor said, "start with ones that need little work — baby carrots, mini peppers, grape tomatoes, and sugar snap peas are the easiest, if you're willing to do a little more work, cut up some celery or peel and cut a cucumber (or two) into spears. Add a mini cup of hummus or peanut butter, some nuts, a piece of low fat cheese, or a container of Greek yogurt dip and you'll be good to go."

The results of this report came from the latest Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data from 2013. The BRFSS is an ongoing survey of US dietary and other health habits.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) fruit and vegetable recommendations vary by age and sex. For instance, women ages 19 to 50 should eat 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. Men in that age group should eat 3 cups. Women ages 19 to 30 should also eat 2 cups of fruit, while older women need 1.5 cups. Men of all ages should eat 2 cups of fruit. Men and women who are very active can eat more of both fruits and vegetables.

According to the USDA, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables, 1 cup of vegetable juice or 2 cups of raw, leafy greens can be considered 1 cup from the vegetable group. One cup of fruit, 1 cup of 100 percent fruit juice or 1/2 cup of dried fruit can be considered 1 cup from the fruit group.

The BRFSS asks questions about dietary intake across a wide range of foods. For instance, it includes questions about 100 percent fruit juice, dried beans, whole fruit, dark green vegetables and orange vegetables.

In 2013, 13.1 percent of the participants met the fruit intake recommendations and 8.9 percent met the vegetable recommendations. The majority only reported eating one fruit serving and 1.7 vegetable servings a day.

According to the CDC report, fruit intake varied from a low of 7.5 percent of the recommended amount in Tennessee to a high of 17.7 percent in California. Vegetable intake varied from 5.5 percent in Mississippi to 13 percent in California.

Drs. Moore and Thompson recommended new efforts to build consumer demand, suggesting competitive pricing, better placement of fruits and vegetables in stores and promotion of healthy eating in child care organizations, schools and grocery stores.

Employers may also be able to help promote better eating habits by offering whole foods like fruits and vegetables in vending machines, according to Drs. Moore and Thompson.

A general rule of thumb, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is to make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

The CDC report was published online July 10. The authors disclosed no outside funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 9, 2015
Last Updated:
July 15, 2015