Fruit and vegetable intake among adolescents and adults in the United States: percentage meeting individualized recommendations

Medscape J Med. 2009;11(1):26. Epub 2009 Jan 26.


Context: Fruit and vegetable intake is an important part of a healthy diet and is associated with numerous positive health outcomes. MyPyramid provides recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption based on individual calorie requirements as determined by an individual's age, sex, and physical activity level.

Objectives: To determine (1) median fruit and vegetable consumption from all dietary sources among adolescent and adult consumers and the percentage of adolescents and adults meeting individual recommended intake levels based on caloric requirements and (2) consumption levels among various demographic groups, intake levels from subtypes of fruits and vegetables, and primary contributors to fruit and vegetable intake.

Design: Analysis of 2-day, 24-hour recall data from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a continuous, nationally representative, cross-sectional survey.

Results: This study included dietary contributions of fruits and vegetables from all dietary sources. Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans meet their calorie-specific MyPyramid fruit or vegetable recommendations. Higher intake was not observed in subgroups with higher recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption based on caloric requirements. The primary contributors to total fruit intake were whole fruits among adults and fruit juices among adolescents. The largest single contributor to overall fruit intake was orange juice. Potatoes dominated vegetable consumption, particularly among adolescents, in whom fried potatoes increased the median vegetable intake from 0.72 cup to 1.21 cups per day. Dark green and orange vegetables and legumes accounted for a small portion of vegetable intake, and few people met the recommendations.

Conclusions: Few American adolescents or adults reported consuming the recommended amounts of fruits or vegetables. Increasing consumption will probably require multifaceted approaches that augment educational campaigns with policy and environmental strategies aimed at the food system at large, from farm to plate, including schools, worksites, and retail establishments. Increasing America's fruit and vegetable consumption is an important public health strategy for weight management and reduction of risk for chronic disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / standards*
  • Diet / trends
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutrition Policy* / trends
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vegetables*
  • Young Adult