Just 12.2% of American adults ate their recommended daily dose of fruit in 2015, and only 9.3% ate the suggested amount of vegetables that year, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise adults eat the equivalent of 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily.
CDC found fruit and vegetable consumption lower among men, young adults, and adults with lower incomes, and that consumption levels tended to vary by state. For example, 7.3% of respondents in West Virginia versus 15.5% in Washington, D.C. met the fruit intake requirements. About 5.8% in West Virginia compared to 12% in Alaska met the vegetable consumption recommendations.
There was also a gender disparity, CDC noted. About 15.1% of women met the daily recommendation for fruit consumption, compared with only 9.2% of the men. There were also income differences in who met the recommendation for vegetable intake, with 11.4% of people in the highest-income category meeting it, compared with 7% of those below or close to the poverty level, CDC reported.
Because eating more fruits and vegetables positively impacts public health, CDC concluded that more effort is needed to identify and address obstacles to increased consumption. A recent review by the agency identified barriers to that goal: high cost, limited availability and access, and perceived lack of preparation time.
Despite the report results, however, demand for fresh produce seems to be increasing. Walmart, Kroger and other retailers have expanded their produce sections to meet increasing consumer demand for fresh fruit and vegetable varieties. Bagged salads and berries have posted particularly strong sales over the past year, following consumer trends for healthier and more convenient food.
Manufacturers are also making efforts to include more fruit and vegetables in their products in order to appeal to consumers looking to increase their consumption of healthier, better-for-you foods and beverages. Convenience items containing fresh produce are popping up to appeal to millennials who want quality food but don't want to spend a lot of time chopping and slicing. These include the standbys such as salad kits, but also prepackaged kits to quickly whip up smoothies, guacamole and single-serve veggie meals in a bowl.
But even though demand and sales are up, many U.S. consumers admit in federal surveys and elsewhere that their fresh produce consumption isn't what it should be. It's not clear where the disconnect lies, but perhaps some of the fruits and vegetables being purchased end up getting thrown away. According to some estimates, nearly one-third of all food consumers purchase and prepare goes uneaten. An estimated 10% of the food that hits grocery store shelves every year goes to waste, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Consumers don't always consume purchased fruits and vegetables in a timely manner, may not know how to make appealing recipes with them, and sometimes don't have enough hours in the day to do either one. That's where already sliced items, salad kits and frozen fruits and vegetables could come in handy. If more people get into the habit of buying fruits and vegetables that are relatively inexpensive, tasty and easy to prepare and eat, there may be more encouraging statistics on the next CDC consumption report.