Visit Our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Section ⇒

X
Jump to:  A   |   B   |   C   |   D   |   E   |   F   |   G   |   H   |   I   |   J   |   K   |   L   |   M   |   N   |   O   |   P   |   Q   |   R   |   S   |   T   |   U   |   V   |   W   |   X   |   Y

Just 2% of U.S. Teens Eat Recommended Amount of Veggies

Just 2% of U.S. Teens Eat Recommended Amount of Veggies


TUESDAY, Jan. 26, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- In findings that may ring true to parents, a new government survey shows that a paltry 2% of U.S. high school students are eating enough vegetables.

The study is the latest look at teenagers' eating habits by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And experts described the results as "disappointing."

Of more than 13,000 high school students surveyed in 2017, only 2% were getting the minimum recommended allotment of veggies: 2.5 to 3 cups per day.

Fruit, meanwhile, was only mildly more popular. About 7% of high schoolers were getting enough, and 100% fruit juice counted toward those servings.

The figures show no progress since the CDC's previous report on the topic: In 2013, as well, 2% of high school kids were eating their veggies as recommended.

"The findings aren't necessarily surprising, but they are discouraging," said Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, in Hartford.

There have been some positive policy moves in recent years, according to Schwartz, who was not involved in the study.

They include efforts to make fresh produce more accessible to low-income Americans through food stamps and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. There are also rules around fruits and vegetables in the National School Lunch Program.

The problem is that relatively few high school students participate in lunch programs -- about 39%, according to the CDC. Instead, Schwartz said, they are free to bring lunch to school or go off-campus, often to fast-food places.

"Unfortunately, that leads to a decline in dietary quality," she said.

The findings, published Jan. 22 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, paint a generally bleak dietary picture.

Vegetable intake was low across the board (among boys and girls, and white, Black and Hispanic teens). The median veggie intake was just one serving per day, which means half of the students ate even less.

The CDC said "new strategies," such as social media campaigns, are needed to coax kids into eating more healthfully.

Any strategies would be up against a powerful marketing campaign by food manufacturers.

And research shows that such marketing, via traditional ads and social media, undoubtedly gets kids -- and adults -- to eat processed foods.

"There's a reason companies spend all that money," Schwartz said.

In contrast, she added, "fresh fruits and vegetables aren't branded."

Then there are the economic factors. Despite nutrition-assistance programs, many families find fresh produce too expensive, Schwartz said. And if parents are not buying vegetables, kids won't develop an affinity for them.

"I think parents are doing the best they can, with the resources they have," Schwartz said.

Children do learn from parents' behavior, and eating habits are no exception, said Angela Lemond, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Lemond suggested that whenever possible, parents make fruits and vegetables easily accessible at home: Have vegetables cut up and on display in the refrigerator, so kids see them first when they're hunting for a snack.

"Children and teens are very visual, and when they're hungry, they want it to be quick and easy to eat," she said.

Lemond also suggested parents avoid labeling foods as "good" or "bad." Instead, consider certain foods to be "always" on the menu -- that is, make fruits and vegetables part of every meal, she said. Other, less-healthful foods can go into the "sometimes" category.

Some kids do turn their noses up at vegetables, in particular. But it's easy to make them tastier, according to Lemond.

"The flavors of vegetables are enhanced when caramelized using olive oil with a splash of seasoning in the oven," she said. "You can also get a grill basket and create a nice flavor using high-heat oils like avocado or sesame oil."

With older kids, it can be helpful to include them in the shopping and preparation, Schwartz said. Let them have a say in which vegetables will turn up on the dinner plate.

Ideally, children should be exposed to plenty of fruits and vegetables early in life.

"Exposure, and repeated exposure even after they reject foods, is important," Lemond said. "Just because they don't like a food once doesn't mean they won't tomorrow."

Her advice is to try cooking vegetables different ways, and to be patient.

"Pleasant approaches are the best way," Lemond said.

More information

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has advice for families on healthy eating.

SOURCES: Marlene Schwartz, PhD, director, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, and professor, human development and family sciences, University of Connecticut, Hartford, Conn.; Angela Lemond, RDN, LD, registered dietitian, spokeswoman, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chicago; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Jan. 22, 2021

Reviewed Date: --

Find a pediatrician
Childrens Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
Dr. James Bennett
Dr. J. Marc Cardelia
Dr. Bettina Gyr
Dr. Peter Moskal
Dr. Cara Novick
Dr. Carl St. Remy
Dr. Allison Tenfelde
Sports Medicine
Dr. Joel Brenner
Dr. Aisha Joyce
Dr. Micah Lamb
Dr. David Smith
Health Tips
Abuse of Prescription ADHD Medicines Rising on College Campuses
Guidelines for Raising Smoke-Free Kids
Helping Kids Get Over their Fears
Parenting Déjà vu: Raising Your Grandchildren
Parents-to-Be Must Communicate
Reading to Kids Helps Their Development
Talking About Sex with Your Teen
Talking With Your Kids About Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco
When Can a Child Wear Contact Lenses
Quizzes
Food Quiz
Food Safety Quiz
Teen Health Quiz
Diseases & Conditions
Adolescent (13 to 18 Years)
Amenorrhea in Teens
Anatomy of a Child's Brain
Anatomy of the Endocrine System in Children
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Asthma in Children Index
Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD) in Children
Bone Marrow Transplant for Children
Brain Tumors in Children
Breast Conditions in Young Women
Chemotherapy for Children: Side Effects
Discipline
Ewing Sarcoma in Children
Female Growth and Development
Firearms
Gynecological and Menstrual Conditions
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) in Children
High Blood Pressure in Children and Teens
Home Page - Adolescent Medicine
Inflammatory and Infectious Musculoskeletal Disorders
Inflammatory and Infectious Neurological Disorders
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Insect Bites and Children
Kidney Transplantation in Children
Major Depression in Teens
Meningitis in Children
Menstrual Cramps (Dysmenorrhea) in Teens
Menstrual Disorders
Mood Disorders in Children and Adolescents
Myasthenia Gravis (MG) in Children
Normal Newborn Behaviors and Activities
Oral Health
Osteosarcoma (Osteogenic Sarcoma) in Children
Overview of Adolescent Health Problems
Pap Test for Adolescents
Pediatric Blood Disorders
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children
Preparing the School-Aged Child for Surgery
Schizophrenia in Children
School-Aged Child Nutrition
Sports Safety for Children
Superficial Injuries of the Face and Head- Overview
Teens and Diabetes Mellitus
Television and Children
Thalassemia
The Growing Child- Teenager (13 to 18 Years)
The Growing Child: 2-Year-Olds
The Heart
The Kidneys
Your Child's Asthma
Your Child's Asthma: Flare-ups

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.