Americans Won’t Eat Their Fruits and Veggies

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Kids aren’t the only ones who hate broccoli and spinach.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that only a third of all adults in the U.S. country eat fruit two or more times a day and just 26% eat vegetables three or more times a day, the amount that government recommends Americans over the age of two should consume.

Even more striking is how little this number has actually changed over the last decade.

According to the CDC’s survey, 34.4% of Americans ate the recommended amount of fruits and veggies in 2000, but as of last year, that number had dropped to 32.5%. In other words, Americans have become less, rather than more, healthy.

In fact, each year, the CDC releases its annual study on healthy food consumption, and every year the results fall below expectations. What makes these findings particularly disheartening to public health advocates is that local and national government agencies have ramped up their calls for Americans to eat healthier. Estimates that obesity costs the U.S. more than $215 billion every year in health care and related costs have put the problem at the top of the Obama administration’s agenda.

Just in the last year, the White House has taken steps to make fruits and vegetables more affordable and accessible in lower income neighborhoods. Several states have instituted laws requiring calorie counts to be posted on menus so that consumers can make healthier choices. And even some public schools have turned their focus to healthier foods and banned less healthy dishes.

On top of this, numerous studies have shown how unhealthy most Americans are. According to one survey earlier this year, 62% of Americans are currently obese, and one alarming study from 2008 claimed that all Americans--as in 100%--will be overweight in 40 years.

Unfortunately, when it comes down to it, Americans seem as addicted to unhealthy foods as ever.

“The top three things that people ordered at fast food restaurants when I started in this business in 1978 were carbonated soft drinks, French fries and a hamburger,” said Harry Balzer, the Chief Industry Analyst and VP of NPD Group, a fast food marketing research firm, in an interview with MainStreet last month. “And that hasn’t changed since.”

As Balzer and others have argued, public health advocates may be overstating the average American’s desire to eat healthy food.

So perhaps the unfortunate lesson to take from this new CDC report is that the government’s standards are too high. Or maybe, Americans really are like children who want to do the opposite of whatever their parents tell them to do. So, government officials, maybe it’s time for a little reverse psychology.

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