Whole fruit is preferable, since it provides fiber and is more satisfying, due to the fiber, water and act of chewing, she explained.
When it came to fruit, about two-thirds of Americans surveyed said they had at least a serving each day, often whole fruit. Roughly 30% had citrus, melon or berries, while 47% said they had some other form of whole fruit.
That, Ansai said, was down from 1999 and 2000, when 77% of Americans surveyed claimed they had consumed fruit each day.
The reason for the downward trend is unclear. But Diekman suspected it might reflect growing wariness of the added sugars lurking in store-bought juices.
Health experts have long encouraged Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables. But it takes much more than advice to change people’s diets, particularly those of low-income Americans, according to Tamara Dubowitz. She is a senior policy researcher with the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.
Dubowitz said federal programs like Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and SNAP (the “food stamp” program) have been “extremely important” in helping families afford nutritious food.
But many factors can hinder low-income Americans from putting healthy meals on the table.
“Our research has shown that diet is affected by all sectors — from housing security, to access to affordable food, to educational quality,” Dubowitz said.
So the solution involves “much more than food policy,” she added.
“It’s also housing policy, work policy and land-use policy,” Dubowitz said.
Ansai agreed on the importance of broad efforts to make healthy eating accessible to more Americans.
For individuals, Diekman said the ideal is to eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables — greens, reds, oranges and all other colors — over the course of a week.
There is a place for home-juiced vegetables, Diekman said, since some people find them to be convenient and palatable. But, she added, “I suggest saving the solid to add to soups or stews, preserving the nutrition.”
The NCHS released the survey findings Feb. 5 in the NCHS Data Brief.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has advice for healthy eating on a budget.
SOURCES: Nicholas Ansai, MPH, division of National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, Md.; Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, food and nutrition consultant, St. Louis; Tamara Dubowitz, ScD, MSc, senior policy researcher, RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh; NCHS Data Brief, Feb. 5, 2021