Half of Our Kids Don’t Eat Veggies

A new study from the CDC reports that half of the kids in the United States don’t eat even one vegetable a day. The CDC used data from the 2021 National Survey of Children’s Health to determine how much kids 1-5 were getting of fruit, vegetables, and sugar-sweetened drinks (not including 100% fruit juice). The survey asked parents about the previous week. The results:

  • About one-third of the kids didn’t have daily fruit.
  • About half of the kids didn’t have a daily vegetable (French fries and chips were not included).
  • More than half had at least one serving of a sugar-sweetened drink. 

Results were different in different states. For example, in Mississippi, 80 percent of kids drank sugar-sweetened beverages, and 70% did not have a daily vegetable. Arkansas did a little better, with 36% eating no fruit, 52% eating no vegetables, and 66% drinking sugary drinks.

Does this really matter?

It’s hard for children to get all the nutrition they need if they don’t eat fruit and vegetables or if they replace healthy foods with sugary treats. This eating pattern also contributes to childhood obesity, which is growing in the U.S.

Kids are also developing unhealthy eating habits which are likely to stick with them. Half of American adults now have at least one diet-influenced chronic disease and two-thirds are overweight. In Arkansas, 38.7% of adults are obese. Kids who develop healthy eating habits are more likely to make healthier choices later in life. 

What’s the solution?

Toddlers need at least a cup of fruit and a cup of vegetables every day. Children ages 4 to 8 should have 1.5 cups of each every day. Older children and teens should have 2-3 cups of both vegetables and fruits, similar to adults. Parents should make sure that they offer these foods to their children even if the kids don’t always choose to eat them. 

It can take kids a number of tries before they learn to like a new food, and they may develop a dislike of a food that was once their favorite. Consistently offering fruit and vegetables will make a difference over time. 

Step by Step to Eating More Vegetables

Provide a good example for your kids, too. American adults don’t eat the amount of vegetables that’s recommended, either. It can be hard to persuade your kids to finish their broccoli if they see that you don’t. 

Why Don’t Adults Eat Vegetables?

The CDC’s study found that there are other factors in play, though. Less food-secure families are more likely to do without fruits and veggies and to serve sugary drinks. Different rates showed up in different locations and in families with different cultural backgrounds, too. 

Be kind to yourself and to your children, and give yourselves time to change habits if you can see that change needs to be made. Exploring different fruits and veggies made in different ways can be a family adventure!