Americans are eating more produce, sort of

According to a recent United States Department of Agriculture report, “Americans are consuming more vegetables and fruit than in 1970, [yet] the average U.S. diet still falls short of the recommendations in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.”1

Given that June is Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, this is a good time to focus on eating more of these healthy choices. But how?

A 2015 report from the Produce for Better Health Foundation points out that “the highest decline in fruit and vegetable consumption has occurred among older consumers who are focused the most on their health.”2

I find that statement incredible, but less surprising as I read on. The report notes that older Americans tend to eat out more often, and it is there where they tend to consume the most produce. However, many restaurants, skimp in this area.

I remember going to a chain restaurant years ago and was astounded by the lack of fruits or vegetables on the menu. Their online menu today is no better. It features the following eight photos of foods:

  1. Waffles smothered in syrup and butter with bacon on the side.
  2. Ham steak smothered in a sweet glaze, with a side of broccoli (yay!) and a baked white potato with a large dollop of butter.
  3. Fried shrimp with French fries and a side of ketchup.
  4. Cream pie.
  5. Pancakes covered with strawberries in a syrupy sauce, accompanied by scrambled eggs and bacon.
  6. Fried chicken steak and mashed potatoes smothered in a white gravy accompanied by corn that is shiny with oil.
  7. Pancakes topped with butter, syrup and chocolate chips.
  8. A soft drink.

In other words, except for the broccoli, this restaurant offers only high-fat, high-sugar, processed-carbohydrate and processed-meat choices. It would be difficult to make a healthy choice there.

What are our options? First, if you want to eat out, check menus online before you go, and choose only restaurants that offer a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that can be served without butter or other adornment. If you call ahead, you may even be able to ask the chef to use those fruits and vegetables to create a dish you can feel good about.

But do keep in mind that nearly 100 percent of restaurant food will contain more sodium and fat than you would use at home.

Better yet, focus on what’s important—socializing with your friends and family—and not the poor-quality food. One way you can do that is to eat a large salad or a healthy homemade vegetable-laden soup at home before you go, and choose a modest option that is the healthiest you can find.

However you choose to do it, eat your fruits and vegetables.*

_________

*If you want a fun challenge to eat more fruits and vegetables, check out the Daily Dozen Challenge, a great way to join others who are trying to include more of what’s best for them in their diets.

References

  1. USDA food statistics.
  2. State of the Plate report.