What We've Learned: Monitoring Intakes
Dietary recommendations are aimed at encouraging people to follow dietary patterns that
promote health and reduce risks of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, obesity, and
diabetes. These recommendations are usually couched in terms of servings of various types
of food. We're interested in monitoring the consumption of fruits and vegetables -- foods
that appear to be particularly related to cancer risk. Here's some of what we've
- Americans consume an average of 1.5 servings of fruits and 3.4 servings
of vegetables per day, totaling just under the US Food Guide Pyramid minimum
recommendation of 5 servings per day (2-4 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of
vegetables). The minimum levels represent targets for persons with very low energy intakes
(about 1600 kcal per day); the upper levels are targets for those with very high intakes
(about 2800 kcal per day). Because average energy intakes are closer to the middle of that
range, people should consume an average of about 2 more servings per day than they are now consuming.
- Americans consume an average of 6.8 servings of grains per day, just
about the minimum of the recommended range (6-11servings per day). As with the
recommendations for fruits and vegetables, the minimum level represents a target for
persons with very low energy intakes; the upper levels are targets for those with very
high intakes. Because average energy intakes are closer to the middle of that range,
people should consume an average of about 1 more serving per day than they are now consuming.
The US Food Guide Pyramid further recommends that at least three of the grain
servings be whole grains, yet the average intake of whole grains is only about one serving
- White potatoes -- half of which are eaten as french fries -- make up
the largest proportion of vegetable servings, while dark green and deep yellow vegetables
are remarkably under-consumed, relative to recommendations.
- Fruit and vegetable consumption appears to be rising, but only
slightly. Furthermore, this increase might be only an artifact of shifts in population
demographics. For example, because older adults consume more fruits and vegetables, it is
expected that intakes would rise as the population ages.