Americans come up short on fruits, vegetables

Cut fat, salt from menu for healthier meals

By Mayo Clinic News Network

This isn’t the first time you’ve heard the advice to eat more fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables provides vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that help reduce your risk for many diseases, including heart disease, stroke and some cancers. These low-calorie yet high-nutrient foods can even help you manage your weight when consumed in place of lower nutrient, higher calorie foods.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention summarizes U.S. fruit and vegetable intake. Our report card isn’t great.

Seventy-six percent of adults didn’t meet fruit intake recommendations, and 87 percent didn’t meet vegetable recommendations. Among children, 60 percent didn’t meet fruit intake recommendations, and 93 percent didn’t meet vegetable recommendations. Half of the total U.S. population consumed less than 1 cup of fruit and less than 1 1/2 cups of vegetables daily.

It’s time to tune in and make some improvements to our diets. Adults who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily should consume 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruits and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily.

Here’s my advice: Every time you eat, include a fruit or vegetable, or one of each. Sounds simple, and it is with a little planning. Here’s how to make it happen:

Plan for it. Get more fruits and vegetables in the house. Get them on your plate.

Store smart. Put produce at eye level in the fridge or in a bowl right on the counter.

Pack it. Put 2 to 3 options in your lunch sack, purse, gym bag or briefcase. Don’t leave home without them.

Eat it. Enjoy fruits and vegetables simply or look for ways to include them in entrees and side dishes. Want dessert? Put more strawberries and banana than ice cream in a bowl — still delicious!

Encourage your workplace, daycare, schools and any other places you frequent to not only make plant-based foods available but to put them front and center.

Mayo Clinic cafeterias and catered meals offer tasty wellness options that meet healthy nutrition standards. Our employee wellness center offers a beautiful variety of mostly plant-based options at prices that are reasonable. Employee feedback has been very positive. Some employees report positive changes in their weight and overall sense of well-being.

Let’s boost the average and improve our diet grade. How will you plan, store, pack and, most importantly, eat more fruits and vegetables?