According to ChooseMyPlate.gov, women over 31 years old should consume 1-1/2 cups of fruit a day. Women between the ages of 31 - 50 should eat at least 2-1/2 cups of vegetables a day and women ages 51 and over should eat 2 cups of vegetables a day. If you are more than moderately active, you can consume even more. But unless you are a vegetarian or eating a primarily plant-based diet, you are probably not eating enough vegetables or fruit.
A study conducted during 2007 and 2010 found that half of the total U.S. population consumed less than 1 cup of fruit and less than 1.5 cups of vegetables daily; 76% did not meet fruit intake recommendations, and 87% did not meet vegetable intake recommendations.
In 2015, the CDC reports, less than 13% of adults overall consumed the recommended amount of fruit and less than 10% consumed the recommended amount of vegetables.
Most of us know that we need to eat vegetables and fruit to be healthy. We know that eating more vegetables and fruits can help us to lose weight, improve our heart health, and prevent chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and some cancers. We know that vegetables and fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are good for us.
So why aren't we eating our fruits and vegetables? Here are some of the most common reasons I gleaned from an informal survey of women over 50:
1. We believe that vegetables and fruits are expensive. Women and families living on a fixed income may not have enough to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables as opposed to cheaper processed foods with lower nutritional value.
2. We are living busy lives and we believe that we don't have time to prepare them. Women working full time jobs and caring for families believe they don't have the time, energy, or motivation to prepare a full meal that includes fruits and vegetables.
3. We prefer food that is convenient, quick, and easy. We want foods we can grab and go or eat on the run, and we think that fruits and vegetables aren't as convenient, quick and easy and processed or fast foods.
4. We believe we don't like the taste or we don't know how to prepare vegetables and fruits. We have preconceived notions about whether we will like certain fruits and vegetables, often based on what we ate as a child.
5. We don't want to be wasteful. If we buy fresh fruits or vegetables and don't use them, they will go bad and we will just have to throw them out.
6. We don't sit down to meals anymore and so we don't prepare full course meals. Because of our busy lives and need to eat "on the go", we often lack the structure and pre-planning to prepare real food that we sit down with our families to eat.
7. We live in food deserts where fresh fruits and vegetables simply aren't readily available. Whether it is in downtown areas in big cities or small out of the way rural towns and villages, many women live in areas where a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (or even canned or frozen fruits and vegetables) just isn't available. They would like to eat healthier but their options are limited.
8. We believe we are eating healthy, even when we're not. We often think that the food choices we make are healthy, but either our portion sizes are too large or we are choosing unhealthy dietary options (or too much of unhealthy dietary options). We have a disconnect between what we believe we are eating and what we are actually consuming.
9. Chronic illness may limit what we are able to eat. Some women feel they have to limit fruit or vegetable intake because of illnesses such as diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome.
Eating enough fruits and vegetables each day requires effort and mindfulness and a desire to improve our health. We have to be intentional about making sure we eat them in the first place. We have to learn how to prepare them so that they are tasty and appealing. We have to set aside the time and plan ahead. We have to work out our budget so that we can afford healthy foods or we may have to locate a source of fruits and vegetables. We may have to work with a physician or nutritionist to determine what we can eat and how much.
Do you eat enough fruits and vegetables each day? If not, why not? Are you interested in learning how to improve your consumption of fruits and vegetables to improve your health?