I want to eat healthier, but I’m not sure what that really means in terms of fruit and vegetable intake. I usually eat at least an apple, banana or some carrots every day at lunch. Am I eating enough fruits and vegetables?

While it’s wonderful that you are eating some fruit and vegetables every day, the amount that you are eating isn’t enough for you to meet the recommended daily amount of produce.

Adults should eat 1.5 to two cups of fruit per day and two to three cups of vegetables per day, according to the latest recommendations from the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That should include a variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups, such as starchy, dark greens, red and orange, beans and peas, as well as whole fruits.

However, you aren’t the only one who isn’t eating the daily recommended amount of produce. Just 12.2 percent of American adults are eating enough fruit and only 9.3 percent are eating the recommended amount of vegetables, according to a newly released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study found that on average, Americans adults are eating fruit only once per day and vegetables 1.7 times a day. The study surveyed adults nationwide and included a look nationally at what participants eat as well as information on how much produce people eat on a state-by-state basis.

In Ohio, for example, only 10.6 percent of adults are eating the recommended daily amount of fruits, while only 6.9 percent are eating the recommended daily amount of veggies.

This is significant because eating more fruits and vegetables are recommended to help reduce your risk of developing diet-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity, the CDC says.

Women, on average are doing better. The studies found that nationally, more women, 10.9 percent, eat the recommended amount of vegetables. Women also topped men in eating more fruit. Among women surveyed, 15.1 percent ate the recommended amount of fruit.

So how can you incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet?

As mentioned in a previous Chow Line column, a good way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake is to get creative in how you prepare them. Some of the tips mentioned in the column from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics include the following:

  • Use vegetables like broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini as pizza toppings.
    Make a breakfast smoothie with low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana.
  • Make a veggie wrap with roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla.
  • Grill colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms, and onions.
  • Add color to salads with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves, apples or mandarin oranges.
  • Keep cut vegetables handy for midafternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions or a quick nibble while waiting for dinner. Include red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas or whole radishes.
  • Put more thought and effort into your work meals. Consider getting a stainless steel bento box and doing a week’s worth of meal planning for your work life. Having those cut vegetables to hand will help you fill out the box with healthier options rather than buying junk food when out.
  • Even if you simply just add an additional handful of grapes or blueberries to your breakfast, some lettuce and sliced tomatoes to your sandwich at lunch, and some roasted sweet potatoes as a delicious side dish to your dinner tonight, you will be doing your body some good.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or [email protected].