A third of high school students eat vegetables less often than once a day, putting them at risk of developing a range of chronic illnesses and cancers, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC analyzed data from more than 10,000 US high school students surveyed for the 2010 National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study (NYPANS). It found that in 2010, students ate fruits and vegetables an average of 1.2 times per day. One third (33.2%) ate vegetables less than once a day, and nearly a third (28.5%) ate fruit less than once a day.
“The infrequent fruit and vegetable consumption by high school students highlights the need for effective strategies to increase consumption,” the CDC said. “Policy and environmental approaches to provide greater access to and availability of fruits and vegetables are among the strategies that schools and communities might choose to achieve this goal.”
The current daily recommendations for adolescent fruit and vegetable consumption are 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables for females and 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables for males.
The NYPANS study looked at frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption rather than portion size. However, the CDC said: “These results make it likely that the majority of students are not meeting the daily fruit and vegetable recommendations for adolescents.”
The results for vegetable consumption varied according to ethnicity, with non-Hispanic black teens eating vegetables least often, an average of once a day, Hispanic students 1.1 times per day, and non-Hispanic white teens 1.4 times per day. Fruit consumption did not vary with ethnicity, the CDC found.
On the other end of the spectrum, 16.8% of students consumed fruit more than four times a day, and 11.2% of students consumed vegetables more than four times a day.
As defined by the study, fruit also included 100% fruit juice, and vegetables included green salad, potatoes (not including French fries, fried potatoes, or potato chips), carrots, and other vegetables.