Even though I am not a parent myself (at least not to human children), I am surrounded by family and friends who are. I observe them interacting with their children and notice the care and effort they put into creating environments in which their kids will thrive. I have shared the journey with my sister as she became a mother four years ago and have watched her blossom into an amazing parent. She, and most of the parents I know well, work tirelessly to keep their kids safe and healthy, to promote good behavior and to impart wisdom so that their kids will be a “better version” of themselves. They provide opportunities for enrichment, put in countless hours of carpooling, and patiently remind them to look both ways before crossing the street, to share their toys, to not stick their fingers in electrical sockets, and to eat lots of fruits and veggies. And, of course, they understand the importance of being a good role model.
Hmmmmm. Well, Moms and Dads just received their report cards from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and they all earned low grades in “fruits and vegetables.” Oops. Clearly, this is a case of the old, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Here’s the facts. The CDC published a new study that found that most adults (18 years or older) across the United States are not eating enough fruits and vegetables which puts them at risk for a variety of chronic diseases. They analyzed daily fruit and vegetable intake from the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the only source of dietary information for most states. Here are a couple of important findings:
- Overall, 13% of adults met fruit intake recommendations, ranging from 8% in Tennessee to 18% in California.
- A total of 9% of adults met vegetable intake recommendations, ranging from 6% in Mississippi to 13% in California.
So, what exactly is “enough” fruits and vegetables? Adults should eat 1 ½ to 2 cups per day of fruits and 2 to 3 cups per day of veggies as part of a healthy eating pattern (taking into consideration their age, activity level and sex). Check out USDA’s Choose My Plate website and their fruit and vegetable charts to see where you stand!
Eating more fruits and vegetables adds nutrients to diets, helps manage body weight when consumed in place of more energy-dense foods and reduces the risk for leading causes of illness and death. You work so hard to take good care of your kids—remember to take care of yourselves as well.