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Good Question: Which Vegetables Do We Eat?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- This shouldn't be a huge shock: Americans don't eat enough vegetables.

In fact, a new study found as many as a quarter of young children go for days without any veggies at all.

Adults aren't much better. The average Minnesota reports eating one-and-half servings of vegetables a day, despite the recommended government guidelines of two-and-a half to three cups.

"For most of us, we have to work at it," says Deb Sheats, an assistant professor of dietetics at St. Catherine University. "It's become so much more convenient today with, you know, baby carrots, the salad mixes."

According to the USDA, the most commonly-consumed vegetable in the United States is the potato. Americans average about 45 pounds per year. French fries are a major contributor to the high consumption of potatoes.

Produce, Vegetables, Veggies
(credit: CBS)

Sheats says French fries are technically a vegetable.

"Technically yes, but we're getting a lot of additional fat and calories that we probably don't need, and we do destroy some of the vitamin C and some of the other nutrients in the deep-frying process," Sheats said.

For those who consider tomatoes a vegetable (USDA included), they come in second at 30 pounds per year. Pizza is a major contributor to consumption of that vegetable. Onions (7.5 pounds per year), followed by head lettuce (7 pounds per year), sweet corn (5 pounds per year) and carrots (5 pounds per year) round out the top six.

At Kowalski's, Produce Director Jeremy Lee says salads, potatoes and tomatoes are the top three vegetable best sellers by far. Carrots come in fourth.

But Lee says he's starting to see more people eating Brussel sprouts, spiralized vegetables and cauliflower. The USDA says that while Americans still eat a lot of potatoes, potato consumption is down from 20 years ago.

"Fifteen years in this business and, I mean, I can remember when we couldn't sell kale or Brussel sprouts for anything," Lee said. "But now that stuff is really trending."

Sheats says it doesn't generally matter how the vegetables are cooked, but just that people eat them. She does warm against overcooking because it can cause vegetables to lose some important phytochemicals.

"Today we're being encouraged to eat more diverse vegetables," Sheats said. "We talk a lot about eating the rainbow when it comes to fruits and vegetables."


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