updated 8/23/2004 5:40:36 PM ET 2004-08-23T21:40:36

Despite years of public service campaigns — and lectures from Mom — Americans still aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, according to a recent study.

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What’s more, most people don’t know how much produce they are supposed to eat.

More than 85 percent of consumers are not eating the federally recommended minimum of five servings of produce a day, according to an AC Nielsen poll of 2,472 people.

And nearly 60 percent think eating one to four servings is enough for a healthy diet; 20 percent said one or two servings is enough.

The government recommends two to four servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables daily. Serving examples include three-fourths of a cup of juice, a medium apple or a half-cup of chopped vegetables.

The government is updating those guidelines and is expected to raise the recommended servings of produce early next year.

The poll, conducted on behalf of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, a nonprofit nutrition education group, found that nearly half of those questioned ate just one or two servings of produce a day.

Just 12 percent said they eat the suggested five or more servings.

Crisis contributes to obesity epidemic
Dr. George Blackburn, associate director of Harvard Medical School’s nutrition division, said Americans’ lack of nutrition knowledge is an urgent crisis that contributes to disease and skyrocketing rates of obesity.

He also said he was surprised that even 12 percent eat the recommended servings.

“People overreport, even though it’s a pathetic number. We would be ecstatic if they (ate) what they say they did,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people go day in and day out with zero.”

According to the survey, 3 percent said they eat no produce.

The survey also suggests that blueberry and eggplant growers might want to do some public relations work.

Asked which color produce they eat in a typical day, only 18 percent said blue and purple; 85 percent said green; and 79 percent said yellow and orange.

The Produce for Better Health Foundation helps run the “5 A Day for Better Health” program, a public service campaign aimed at getting people to eat more produce.

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