BRENTWOOD, MO. - According to the newly released State of the Plate: America's Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Trends research from the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), consumers are eating fewer fruits and vegetables than they were 15 years ago. 

The research shows people are eating fruits and vegetables less frequently, down nearly 10% since 2004, when the PBH State of the Plate reporting began. The most significant contributors to this decline have been a 16% decrease in vegetable consumption frequency, followed by a 15% reduction in juice intake. In the past five years alone, overall consumption has declined by 3%, indicating a continued downtrend.  

"It is no exaggeration that we are in the midst of a fruit and vegetable consumption crisis in our country. Further, this underconsumption is not only pervasive among all age groups but it is also persistent," said Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, president and chief executive officer of PBH. "The PBH State of the Plate research report shows most Americans currently eat fruits and vegetables on just one occasion or less each day. A decline in fruit and vegetable eating occasions does not bode well for the future of fruit and vegetable intake and, most importantly, Americans' health and happiness." 

Key Findings from the report: 

  • Vegetable intake has decreased in five out of eight age groups. Older adults (50+ years) are leading the way in declines — a particular concern as they typically eat the most vegetables. 

  • Older millennials are slacking, declining in fruit and vegetable eating occasions and trending higher than other age groups in not eating fruits. 

  • Fruit consumption is down among kids. Children 1-3 years old have shown a significant decline in fruit consumption. Intake is also down in children 4-8 years old, which is especially alarming because young children are among the highest fruit consumers. 

  • Young consumers are a promising generation of vegetable lovers. Consumers ages 1-14 years old are eating vegetables more frequently.  

  • Juice intake has declined. Consumption of juice is down among all age groups and to the greatest extent in young children. This is particularly topical as the new federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in December, calls out the alarming shortfall in American produce consumption and includes 100% fruit and vegetable juices as options for meeting recommendations.  

  • While overall fruit intake remains low, people have turned more frequently to bananas, grapes, blueberries, strawberries and oranges in the past five years. 

  • Handy, simple veggies are increasing. Potatoes, salads, avocados, tomato sauce/paste and salsa have been increasing as go-to veggies over the past five years. 

  • One-fourth of vegetables are consumed through dining out. People of all ages get a sizable portion of their veggie intake dining out, via fast food, casual dining, cafeterias, delivery and/or other means.  

  • Most fruits and vegetables are eaten at home, paired with other favorite foods. When Americans do consume produce, many people enjoy their fruits and vegetables coupled with basic, everyday staple meals. 

The latest PBH State of the Plate research report: Can be accessed here

Reacting to the new report 

With the new PBH State of the Plate report coinciding with the release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as well as 2021 being declared the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, PBH and its members have rallied together to declare the next five years as "A New Era of Conscious Consumption," focusing on truly moving the needle to help all Americans easily enjoy more fruits and vegetables every day. 

"Conscious consumption is the act of having acute awareness regarding what we are purchasing and eating," said Reinhardt Kapsak. "Our choices have rippling effects, not just on our own health and emotional well-being, but also on our families, communities and the environment. We know conscious consumption makes us and our world better, but we must simplify this call to action to realistically work within Americans' lifestyles, across all ages and stages of life, socioeconomic levels and cultural backgrounds." 

Reinhardt Kapsak also added that ease and repetition can turn consciously eating more fruits and vegetables into an unconscious or automatic behavior and, ultimately, a healthy habit, or to simply Have A Plant. She suggested three ways to turn consciously trying to eat more fruits and vegetables into an ongoing, automatic behavior: 

  • Make the doing easy. Stick to the easiest and most accessible favorite options, and find ways to add one more serving of fruits and vegetables each day. 

  • Have a plan, Have A Plant. Consumers should map the day and week with snacks and meals that include all forms of fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned, dried, 100% juice – as the star of every meal and snack. Meals should be built with fruits and vegetables as the star of, or at least half the plate, and pair with other nutrient-dense foods like whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein. 

  • Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Consistent repetition will turn consciously eating more fruits and vegetables into an unconscious or automatic behavior and, ultimately, a healthy habit. Add one cup of berries into a morning smoothie, grab a handful of vegetables as a daily mid-morning snack, or enjoy a veggie-filled salad to start each lunch or dinner. Every day gets easier with repetition.