Americans Hate Vegetables

According to a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 26% of the adult population eats its vegetables — despite a ten-year effort by the federal government to get Americans to eat more of them. Unfortunately, as a nation we still haven’t achieved the modest goals set by public health officials so long ago. In fact, we haven’t even reached the half-way mark.

In related news, NPD Group, a market research firm, concluded there isn’t anything anyone can say to get people to eat their veggies. The group’s "Eating Patterns in America" report says that only 23% of meals in the United States actually include a vegetable, and that’s with stretching the meaning of the word beyond the breaking point. Because putting lettuce on a hamburger qualifies as a vegetable, one has to wonder just what else qualifies. Did the Reagan administration finally get its wish? Do we now consider ketchup a vegetable?

But in fact, the rest of the numbers are so abysmal that it kind of makes a person wish that whole ketchup is a vegetable thing had turned out to be true.

  • In 1994, 22% of meals prepared at home included a salad. Today, the number has dropped to 17%.
  • The number of entrée salads ordered at restaurants dropped from 10% to 5% in the same amount of time.

Experts have come up with a lot of reasons why people pass on the sugar snap peas and reach for the chips instead. Even though people know that vegetables are good for them, they opt for convenience. Eating healthy, fresh produce requires adjusting schedules. People have to make more frequent trips to the grocery for fresh items. Fresh vegetables are often perceived to be more expensive than over-processed, chemical-laden convenience foods, though research shows otherwise. While a few people might be more willing to incorporate vegetables into their diet, many people are undereducated about the many fast and easy ways to prepare fresh food and lack the confidence to prepare it or make it attractive to children, or haven’t cooked them in so long they don’t know what to do with them once they bring them home.

And vegetables continue to get a bum rap despite producers going to great lengths to make eating them easier. We can buy precut broccoli and other mixed veggies in their own bowls. All we have to do is steam them in the microwave, which, of course, has its own health issues. And since bagged salads are the fastest growing section of your produce section, they are a way to add healthy superstars like romaine and spinach to your meals with minimal inconvenience, albeit a higher risk of bacterial contamination.

So the question remains, if convenience is the only issue, why are we still choosing fries and fizzy drinks over ready-to-eat salads and vegetables?

Unfortunately, the problem goes much deeper than simple convenience. We’re a world in love with junk food. I’ve written before about our addiction to high-glycemic foods. The Power Aisle continues to be a staple in stores across much of the developed world because people continue to make sodas, chips, candy, popcorn, and cookies staples of the modern diet.

In its article "Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries," the New York Times reported on the baby carrot industry’s attempt to make people think of carrots like they think of sugary snacks. The slogan is, "Eat ’em like junk food." But that campaign doesn’t seem to be making much headway either. Not as long as people continue to put their taste buds’ pleasure before their own health. In the end, it appears we are not proverbial plow mules to be enticed by "dangling carrots." Now carrot cake, on the other hand…

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Jon Barron

Jon Barron is a researcher, author, lecturer and founder of Baseline of Health Foundation. He has wrapped his mind around every natural therapy known to man and brought it together in a whole body package--delivering a whole body “system” program, a high-end line of nutraceutical products, and cutting-edge functional foods and drinks for consumers to enjoy.

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  1. Anonymous says

    People simply don’t know that :”Trace elements include the phytonutrients (PN), which are the traces of molecules of plant and animal life forms, and are found in abundance in foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans. Although actually present in very tiny amounts, micrograms/milligrams – these amounts are sufficient for assisting in the metabolism process. These nutrients form the basis of life.

    Only in the last two decades have scientists begun to study the influence of phytonutrient (PN) components on the cells of the body, especially their contribution to the health of the mitochondria. These nutrients protect the heart, prevent cancer, help the body overcome poisons and oxidation, slow down the aging process, free up and heal muscle inflammation, and strengthen the autoimmune system. Vitality nutrition is rich in PN components. If you eat in accordance with vitality lifestyle guidelines you can protect yourself from harmful genetic and environmental factors, such as smoke and radiation. You can actually save your life, while no food supplements served in pill or capsule form can do this for you. Despite evidence that PN’s molecules determine a person’s health, their details are not listed on food product labels. You are probably unaware of this rich and healthful source, and you chase after food supplements, vitamins and minerals, instead of consuming vegetables and fruits, which are so rich in phytonutrients”.
    Ervin Kedar

  2. says

    I think the “Scarrots–carrots you can eat like junk food” are hilarious. I was hoping they would get a few more carrots eaten. I make an effort to eat at least a little bit of vegetable every day but don’t always succeed.

  3. Lynnette says

    I must not be American – LOL. I haven’t been to a fast food place in decades. I don’t buy salad, I pick it from our garden. We eat garden veggies with breakfast and dinner – greens like spinach, chard or kale. Peas, beans, beets, carrots, lettuces, spinach, broccoli, fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, and GARLIC, all grow in our gardens, and supply us all year… Oh, and we do not have a microwave. I refused to have one installed when we had our kitchen renovated.

    I don’t buy any meat in the stores, except wild salmon. We raise our own chickens (eggs), ducks, turkeys, and I buy pastured beef from a farmer we trust. I use duck fat and butter.

    When I do go to the store, I shop the perimeter.

    What’s that make me, but healthy?

  4. Anonymous says

    GET OVER IT!! This is America! If people want to eat vegetables (I am one of those), let them. If they don’t, let them. As the article says, the govt. has tried for ten years to get them to eat (their?) vegetables. There is no lack of information and people don’t need anyone preaching at them to “EAT YOUR VEGETABLES”.

  5. She Said says

    Anonymous 4 you and people like you crack me up. Get over what? Sharing information?

    Sure this IS America and we do have a right to not eat our veggies. Just like we have a right to snarf up junk food by the caseload full and HFCS-laced soda by the bucketfull. And as we have the right to kill ourselves with diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

    Clearly we DO need someone preaching at us judging by the fact that its predicted that 30 percent of Americans will be diabetic by 2050. And currently obesity and heart disease are out of control.

    Since when is an informational article imparting statistics and facts somehow a bad thing? And if learning about health is something that bothers you why pray tell are you hanging out on an INFORMATIONAL health website?

  6. Kelly says

    Get over it? Really? So I guess nobody should be allowed to discuss healthy eating online then. She Said… preach it sister!

  7. Anonymous says

    Why don’t we just genetic-engineer veggies that don’t taste toxic? Take broccoli, the best example of this problem. Broccoli contains an alkaloid substance that is an anti-cancer substance (allegedly) but being an alkaloid, it tastes awful. Even drowning it with barbecue sauce doesn’t key the paint – let alone make a dent – on the bitter taste.

    Either genetic-engineer better veggies, or we’ll have to teach an awful lot of people to intubate themselves to get those veggies in past hypersensitive taste buds.

  8. Anonymous says

    I have sent away for 2 says.. “When I die, I won’t go to hell…my wife already forces me to eat veggies”, the other one “Veggies are God’s punishment for our sins”. I spent over 10 years of sheer bliss not eating any. To be able to swallow 3 forkfulls of salad, I have to use almost a jar of Blue Cheese dressing and add chicken, ham, more cheese or all of the above. Why is it that foods that smell good, make you feel good and taste good are “bad for you”. Eating vegetables and eating cardboard boxes feel the same way.

  9. Lori says

    For anonymous’ comment from 3/29 – I think one problem here is that vegetables have so many different flavors to experience, and our taste receptors become “addicted” to certain flavors. I’ve always loved chocolate (no surprise there), and a few years ago I started eating only 70% or more dark chocolate for the health benefits. It took awhile to get used to it, but I can’t stand anything less than 70% now. Try this – get some really good quality bacon (no preservatives if possible), cook up a couple of pieces, use about 2 tsp or so of the grease (a little more if necessary), and saute some onion, garlic, and veggies (greens are great with this) until just tender. Then crumble the cooked bacon on them. Don’t worry about the fat or whatever. Small amounts of fat help us utilize the nutrients. Try it – I think you’ll like it!

  10. Anonymous says

    I am always leery when the advise comes from a government source, they should be concerned as how our animal products are raised and how they are processed, when they say eat your vegetable that alone is not an answer but only the beginning, first, let’s get rid of the pesticides these products are exposed as we get all these residues, same for fruits, our stomach acid will dissolve and the process begins unless we do not have enough of this acid which is rampant in our society, as we get overloaded with (PPIs ) a good balanced meal is not just vegetables, we should include meat, poultry, fish, etc and Lynette congratulations on your life style, that was and should be the American way, we must have been invaded by some alien beings at one time that we have adopted these unorthodox and stupid ways as for diet pyramids and so on. JAM

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