Despite an increased consumer interest in health, nutrition, and ingredient transparency, Americans are still ignoring one of the easiest ways to live a healthier lifestyle: eating their vegetables. In celebration of National Eat Your Vegetables Day on June 17, Subway commissioned a survey that found that the majority of Americans (84 percent) aren’t meeting the USDA recommended minimum number of daily vegetable servings (four servings, or two cups). Perhaps more troubling is that 47 percent claimed that “nothing” prevents them from eating more vegetables, despite revealing that “overall health benefits” are their top motivation for vegetable consumption (70 percent), among those who ever eat vegetables.
“National Eat Your Vegetables Day shouldn’t be limited to just one day on the calendar for consumers to eat their vegetables—it’s something that everyone has heard since they were a child,” says Lanette Kovachi, MS, RD, global dietitian for Subway. “As a registered dietician, it’s encouraging that consumers have taken an increased interest in their own health and nutrition, but clear that there is more work to do to get people to eat more vegetables.”
“We commend Subway Restaurants’ efforts to encourage consumers to eat more vegetables and promote healthier eating,” says Kristen Stevens, COO of Produce for Better Health Foundation. “The findings of the National Eat Your Vegetable’s Day survey further draws attention to the need for Americans to incorporate vegetables into their diet as disclosed in our annual ‘State of the Plate’ report. The first step in changing behaviors is creating awareness and driving discussion to help educate consumers on the various health benefits of eating more vegetables and how to eat more of them.”
The Subway National Eat Your Vegetables Day survey examined the current state of vegetable consumption by American consumers, including number of servings eaten daily, favorite vegetables, excuses, motivations, and consumption meal time. The national survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Subway Restaurants from June 4 to June 8 among 2,019 American adults ages 18 and older.
While the average American consumer only eats 2.3 servings of vegetables per day, Millennials (age 18–34) consume more vegetables than any other generation, averaging almost a half serving more per day (2.7 servings). Further, the number of Millennials who meet the minimum recommendation of four servings per day is the highest of any age group (22 percent).
But why are Millennials eating more vegetables? Survey results reveal personal appearance being a key motivator of vegetable consumption. Of Millennial adults who ever eat vegetables, 45 percent who ever eat vegetables are more likely to eat vegetables so they can “look better” as compared to those ages 35 and older (26 percent). Millennials are also more likely to eat vegetables to lose weight (56 percent) than those 35 and older (39 percent).
“The American diet has traditionally lagged in prioritizing vegetables as a staple of their diet; however, it is encouraging that the youngest generation is slowly bucking the trend,” Kovachi says. “The Millennial generation is more self-aware than previous generations due to their social, photo-driven culture, so ‘looking better’ is a natural motivator. But the truth is nutrient-rich vegetable consumption truly does have positive physiological effects, including a healthier-looking complexion, assisting in weight control, enhancing the immune system, and prevention of chronic disease.”
Although nothing prevents nearly half of Americans from eating more vegetables (47 percent), the survey also revealed other excuses for not eating more vegetables, highlighted by“Too expensive” (14 percent);“Dislike the way they taste” (11 percent); and“Preparing them takes too long” (10 percent).
Perhaps it’s time management or they just don’t feel like it, but men (12 percent) are more likely than women (7 percent) to cite preparation time as a reason that they don’t eat more vegetables. Further inhibiting their consumption, men who ever eat vegetables (39 percent) are more likely than women (28 percent) to prefer their vegetables cooked.
Too bad bacon isn’t a vegetable. American consumers’ most beloved vegetables are lettuce and tomatoes (both 65 percent). However, the survey also revealed that Millennials were less married to these vegetable staples than other generations. Further, women demonstrated a greater affinity for variety, highly ranking cucumbers (60 percent), spinach (58 percent), and avocados (49 percent) among their vegetable favorites as compared to their male counterparts (cucumbers: 50 percent, spinach 44 percent, avocados 38 percent).
Dinner time remains the most popular meal for Americans’ vegetable consumption, with three out of four Americans who ever eat vegetables (75 percent) indicating that they consume the most amount/servings during this meal. Lunch (20 percent) and breakfast (1 percent) vegetable consumption continues to lag behind. Millennials indicated the greatest variety of consumption times that they were most likely to consume the most vegetables during dinner (63 percent) and lunch (28 percent).
“One of the easiest ways to eat more vegetables is to include them in more meals and snacks throughout the day,” Kovachi says. “Increasing vegetable consumption can be as simple as loading up a sandwich with a variety of fresh vegetables at lunch or choosing a salad, adding peppers and onions to a breakfast sandwich, or incorporating crispy, fresh veggies into snacks throughout the day.
“Subway has always been a leader in offering a large variety of fresh vegetables to make it easy for consumers to meet their daily requirement while on the go,” she adds.