This week, the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) released two complementary reports that revealed some head-turning information about America’s fruit and vegetable consumption. The 2010 Gap Analysis, which analyzed America’s fruit and vegetable consumption and a second report that examined consumer attitudes towards eating fruits and veggies reported that the “gap” between the fruits and vegetables that Americans should eat and what they are actually eating is costing Americans $56 billion per year in related health care costs.
“Fruit and vegetable consumption is low for a compilation of reasons,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO of PBH. “Despite the fact that fruits and vegetables are convenient, people are cooking less and eating out more, where there are fewer fruits and vegetables available. Restaurants account for only 3% of fruit and 15% of vegetables that are consumed.”
While the average American consumes only 43 percent of the daily intake of fruit and only 57 percent of vegetables, the public health and economic stakes associated with the fruit and vegetable consumption gap are very high and growing rapidly. For example, the health care and other costs of inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption for just three diet-related, chronic diseases—coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer—cost $56 billion a year, having grown 9% per year over the past 10 years.
“Next to not smoking, watching what you eat is the single most important thing you can do for your health,” said Pivonka. “You can eat very healthfully very inexpensively.”
The analysis issued a series of forward-looking recommendations designed to close this gap, but what can we do at home to make sure we’re eating all of our recommended fruits and veggies?
“Parents can set a good example and eat more fruits and vegetables themselves,” said Pivonka. “Parents purchase the food for the household, they can control the availability of healthy foods.”
Additionally, when families eat meals at home together, they tend to eat more fruits and vegetables than when they’re eating out. To help your kids get excited about fruits and vegetables, simply offering them as snacks in the home can be encouraging, as can involving children in selecting, growing, or preparing fruits and vegetables.
How do you encourage your family to eat more fruits and vegetables at home?