Why aren’t Americans eating more fruits and veggies?

From 1988 to 1994, 27% of adults met the USDA guidelines for eating fruit and 35% met the guidelines for vegetables. In 1999 and 2002 the percentages were 28% and 32%, respectively.

Eating veggies actually went down, and only 11% of adults met USDA guidelines for both fruits and vegetables in 1988-1994 and 1999-2002.

How can this be?

Despite the initiation of a national fruit and vegetable campaign in 1991, these findings indicate that Americans’ fruit and vegetable consumption did not increase. The obvious conclusion is that the program failed to meet its objective.

That’s my conclusion, not that of the researchers who blamed everything else. For example,

  • Food preferences are often personal and rooted in cultural backgrounds
  • Environmental barriers
  • Snack and unhealthy foods are relatively cheap compared to fresh produce
  • Eating out is common and facilitates consumption of larger portions with extra fat content
  • Advertising for nutritionally poor foods is more widespread than promotion of fruits and vegetables
  • Confusion over implementing dietary guidelines into daily practice
  • Poor access to fruits and vegetables in disadvantaged neighborhoods

What to do?
Let’s change the name and start another campaign!

Called “Fruits & Veggies — More Matters,” this $3.5 million national campaign is a partnership between the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It replaces the “5-a-Day” program launched in 1991 by the National Cancer Institute, which was later changed to the “Five-to-Nine” program.

Actually, the program has failed twice.

In a Washington Post article, William Dietz, director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity acknowledges, “No segment of the population is meeting that intake,”

Dr. Dietz does not explain why this program will succeed where others failed.

It seems like an obvious question to ask, but no reporter that I can find has acknowledged the 800-pound gorilla.

4/14/07 18:45 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.