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CDC Report: We Still Don't Eat Our Veggies

By Heather Turgeon |

Fruits and vegetables

U.S. Veggie Consumption Still Low

Last week, The New York Times reported that American vegetable consumption isn’t getting any better. In fact, in some ways it’s getting worse.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 26 percent of people in this country eat three servings of veggies a day. Seventeen percent of dinners prepared at home include salad (in 1994 it was 22 percent), and 23 percent of meals contain a vegetable.

Even with strong recommendations — national health guidelines say we should eat 4.5 cups of fruits and veggies (that’s nine servings) a day — Americans still aren’t reaching for the greens.

Apparently we’re not going to eat our vegetables just because we’re told to. What are we doing wrong?

It’s not that we don’t understand the importance of fruits and vegetables. The Times points out that what stands in our way is convenience and money. Lots of people don’t know how to prepare swiss chard and zucchini quickly — and after ambitious trips to the grocery store or farmers market, produce just meets a sad, limp death sitting in the refrigerator. And in terms of calories, fruits and vegetables are not the most economical way to feed a family.

Berkley Unified School District’s “edible schoolyard” program gives some clues about what works — kids who help garden and cook are 150 percent more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables than kids not in the program. More exposure to greens, but also helping prepare them (and knowing how to make them taste good) gets children over the hump.

Has anything worked for your family to up your intake of veggies and fruit?

More from Heather Turgeon:

Genetically Modified Salmon: Why I’m Not Afraid of the “Frankenfish”

Stop Telling Me to Co Sleep

Do it Now: The Perfect 10 Minute Mediation

Teen Trends: Gastric Bands for Obesity?

50 Amazing Naptime Ideas

Concussions and Cars: Why Parents Worry About the Wrong Things.

Why Kids with Language Delays are More Aggressive

Top 10 Pediatric Myths

Non Stick Chemicals Linked to Higher Cholesterol in Kids

Too Many Moms Still Die in Childbirth: Report

Your Baby is About to Get Chubbier: Pediatricians Are Switching Growth Charts.

Doctors Misdiagnosed in all Cases of Infant Death From Whooping Cough

Too Much Pregnancy Weight Sets Up Babies for Obesity

Antipsychotic Medications for Toddlers?

C-Section Twice as Likely When Doctors Induce Labor.

Why I Abandoned the “Readiness” Approach to Potty Training.

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About Heather Turgeon

heatherturgeon

Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “CDC Report: We Still Don't Eat Our Veggies

  1. Penn Girl says:

    I’m a big fan of making homemade, sugar-free smoothies. I make one for myself everyday that includes two to three cups worth of dark, leafy greens, blended in with a banana, plain yogurt, fruit juice and whatever other fruits I have around the house (fresh or frozen). My three-year-old wouldn’t touch a bowlful of spinach to save his life, but he loves green smoothies.

  2. Gretchen Powers says:

    We’re fish-eating vegetarians, so vegetables are a main part of our diet. Beans are veggies. Bean burritos are soooo good. Falafel or other chick-pea patty type things are veggies. Asian recipes use tons of veggies. It’s so simple, too, to just slice up zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms, onions, whatever, spritz them with olive oil, garlic salt and pepper and broil them for a while. Serve them with pasta or a baguette and some cheese. Who wouldn’t like that? How about tomato soup? Veggies on top of pita bread with tomato sauce and some cheese? It’s not THAT complicated. Baby carrots dipped in hummus…I could go on and on. These are all non-weird things that actually taste good. People are just stupid and lazy, I’m convinced. I will have to try the greens in the smoothies thing…

  3. Gretchen Powers says:

    OK, shouldn’t have said people are stupid and lazy, but these things slay me. We’ve been hearing these messages for YEARS now…sigh…

  4. goddess says:

    I think I’d like to come to dinner at your house Gretchen- sounds yummy. We like a lot of salads and raw veggies- the kids actually prefer most of their veggies raw.

  5. michelle says:

    “Stupid and lazy”…wow. What slays ME is the self-righteousness in that statement. Have you compared how much fresh fruits and vegetables cost vs. processed foods? Do you know anything about federal corn and sugar subsidies? Do you know how much of the average family after-tax income it would take to switch to a diet that yields the recommended # of servings of fresh fruits/vegetables, especially in a time when the poverty rate is on the increase? Or do you find it a lot easier to just be really smug?

  6. Gretchen Powers says:

    you know what, buy canned beans and tomatoes or dry beans, buy frozen vegetables…it doesn’t have to be FRESH to be healthy…I don’t buy the “it costs so much” B.S…lots of people live on rice and beans, and yeah, I know rice isn’t a vegetable, but pulease! if people for, like, 2 seconds would stop looking for excuses and pay a little attention to reality, they’d realize you can eat pretty well in America for not THAT much money…a can of tomatoes, a box of spaghetti, a clove of garlic, a bag of frozen spinach or broccoli…all those things are cheap and its not abnormal or exotic food…it just takes a little freaking sense! I’m progressive in my politics and think lots needs to be changed about how this country is run, but people still need to pull their heads out of their own asses and take some responsibility for what they eat

  7. Gretchen Powers says:

    OK…sorry to be so hot-headed, but it is sometimes frustrating that the first tack is always to blame some outside system when much could be helped by individuals just making smarter choices that are truly within their means…maybe I am just really out of touch with how how extremely un-knowledgable a person may be that it would not occur to them to buy a can of tomatoes and a box of pasta or a bag of frozen veggies…I don’t know whose “fault” that is.

  8. Amy says:

    When you can buy a frozen dinner for $.88, it is very hard to convince someone with little or no money for groceries to buy all of the ingredients for a meal. I was a case manager in behavioral services for a long time and it is very difficult/almost impossible to convince the clients to eat a more healthy diet. When they are living on a fixed, very small income (usually disability), they buy the cheapest available foods. Unfortunately, their children eat what their parents can afford. They try to stretch their food stamp dollar as far as possible – if they even receive them, and buy as many frozen meals as they can. It has nothing to do with being “stupid or lazy” it is just unfortunate.

  9. Manjari says:

    Yeah, I have to agree that there is more going on here than healthy food being too expensive, though I agree that is a problem. I have seen far too many families who are just used to eating unhealthy, processed food and tons of meat (and you could spend a lot more money on veggies by cutting out most meat), and they just aren’t willing to eat any other way. I think a lot of people don’t have a taste for real food anymore, and if it doesn’t come in a box with tons of fat and salt and microwave directions, they won’t like it. I know plenty of people who don’t struggle to pay for groceries who just eat unhealthy food because they are sort of addicted to it.

  10. goddess says:

    I agree. I’ve gone back to scrach and while the initial outlay on some items may prove an expense, it’s amazing how much less it costs than prepackaged, over processed foods. And the sodium content is much lower, no MSG or HFCS…..

  11. Gretchen Powers says:

    I guess I was not aware of what frozen dinners cost because I would NEVER buy one. That said, these people, even with limited budgets make discretionary choices with their money. Maybe they buy those .88 frozen dinners and then still have their cell phones and cable…I don’t know. But, that’s their choice. I choose to have a pay as you go phone and no cable and I eat healthy food. So, I respect the sovereignty of their choice, but I don’t buy the line about it costing too much to eat healthfully in America, for all except a very miniscule minority of people.

  12. JEssica says:

    Personally I think the US public hates veggies because the veggies in school lunch were super gross. If you want your kids to eat veggies, you eat veggies in front of them. Although, I think any discerning eater would still not eat veggies from the school cafeteria. My favorite is tomato and cucumber salad with vinaigrette.

  13. Amy says:

    I agree with you there JEss, my ss says that he likes my salad better because it is “not brown like at school” – gag!!! When he stays with us, he takes his lunch and is very happy to have “better” salad and carrot chips with his turkey wrap! That is really sad as some of these kids’ only chance at veggies is their free meal at school – it isn’t teaching them that veggies are really quite delicious.

  14. Linda says:

    Beans and chick peas are legumes, not vegetables. I think a lot of the problem is that people don’t now how to prepare veggies and make them taste good. A basic cookbook or cooking class would do wonders for so many people. I was pretty shocked on that thread a while ago where so many people said they didn’t know how to roast a chicken!

  15. Gretchen Powers says:

    LOL! There are all kinds of different definitions of “vegetable”, from the everyday nutritionist/dietitian to the botany definition, and I do think beans and chick peas qualify. In French, the word for “vegetable” is “légumes”, actually………I really wouldn’t split hairs here, honestly, for heavens sake! Are you kidding?

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