The look of shock on my teenage daughter’s face was almost comical.
"Say what?!” she squawked.
“You need to eat more vegetables,” I explained again. “You’re supposed to have at least two and a half cups of vegetables a day. Four measly little baby carrots do not qualify as enough. You should be eating 30.”
“That many would kill me,” she asserted with all the moral certitude that only a teenager can muster. “Besides, I eat way more vegetables than most of my friends.”
It was an old argument, and unfortunately a true one. A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) using surveys from 10,765 students across the country in grades 9-12 found that over a third of high school students were eating vegetables less than once a day. Just under a third ate fruit less than once a day, and that’s even when they counted fruit juice as part of that intake.
As my daughter pointed out to me, the study looked at the number of times teenagers ate vegetables and fruit, not the number of servings. But I was ready. The report clearly stated:
These results make it likely that the majority of students are not meeting the daily fruit and vegetable recommendations for adolescents participating in less than 30 minutes of daily physical activity: 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables for females and 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables for males. The recommendations are higher for adolescents participating in more physical activity.
That’s where the dreaded 30 carrots came up. I pointed out to her that she still needed to eat at least two and a half cups of vegetables each day. Since 12 baby carrots make up approximately one cup of vegetables, if she was only going to eat them once a day, she’d have to scarf down 30 in one sitting.
“It doesn’t have to be all at once,” my son chimed in. “Why not have some carrots at lunch, then some other kind of vegetable at dinner?”
The sour look my daughter gave him could have curdled milk.
“But you like vegetables,” she said, rolling her eyes. “You’ve even eaten them at breakfast.” The scorn and disbelief in her voice would have been worthy of a presidential debate. And it would probably be echoed by many of their peers. My son, at the opposite end of the spectrum, actually likes to eat vegetables, and even grows many of them. Sadly, he’s rare - only a little over 10% of the students surveyed ate vegetables four or more times a day.
Then my daughter hit upon what she obviously thought was her lifeline in the argument. “What about fries? Potatoes grow in the ground, so they’re vegetables, right?”
“Sorry kid,” I told her. “French fries, fried potatoes and chips don’t count. Those are basically fatty starch.”
She then gave a great sigh. “Can I at least count pizza?”
It was my turn to roll my eyes. “Leave that one up to Congress,” I said.