- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) — Fewer than a third of American adults eat the amount of fruits and vegetables the government recommends, a trend that’s remained steady for more than a decade, health officials said yesterday.

That’s “well below” the government’s goal of getting 75 percent of Americans to eat two servings of fruits and having half of the population consume three servings of vegetables each day by 2010, said Dr. Larry Cohen of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The survey is based on responses from 305,000 adults in 2005. It indicates the country is only about halfway toward meeting its healthy eating goal three years from now.

“We’re really concerned with the lack of success in meeting these national goals,” said Dr. Cohen, who works in CDC’s nutrition and physical activity division.

Although the rate of fruit and vegetable consumption has remained unchanged since 1994, health officials said the goal is still within reach.

“We have more work to do over the next few years,” spokeswoman Rachel Ciccarone said.

The survey showed that 27 percent of adults ate vegetables three times a day, and about 33 percent ate fruit twice a day. A serving size is 1/2 cup for most fruits and vegetables, or 1 cup for leafy greens.

Senior citizens were more likely than others to follow their mother’s advice to eat more vegetables, with slightly more than a third of that group eating three or more servings each day. Younger adults, 18 to 24, ate the fewest vegetables. Nearly four-fifths of that age category scraped the vegetables to the side of their plates — if they had vegetables on the plate at all.

Seniors ate the most fruit, with nearly 46 percent eating two or more servings of fruit daily. People ages35 to 44 ate fruit the least, with fewer than 28 percent eating the recommended amount of fruit each day.

The federal agency said it doesn’t know why people aren’t eating more vegetables or fruits. Dr. Cohen said future surveys will ask people what other foods they are eating.

Susan Krause, a clinical dietitian at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, said people are eating more refined sugars or choosing protein instead of fruits and vegetables.

“There’s so much information out there and people get very confused. When they’re looking at protein, they feel that’s the solution when they’re not looking at long-term health benefits,” she said. “There’s so many fabricated foods now, and people are looking at convenience.”

The survey relied on people to report what they were eating. Telephone questioners asked how often they consumed fruit juice, fruit and vegetables. Although Hispanics ate the most fruits (37 percent) compared with blacks and whites, they ate the fewest vegetables, (about 20 percent). Whites ate the fewest fruits (31 percent) but the most vegetables (28 percent).

Miss Krause said health officials should offer people simple options for getting fruits and vegetables in their diets, such as easy recipes in cooking classes and fruit smoothies or shakes in schools.

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