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An Apple A Day Isn’t Enough

September 30, 2010

The New York Times reported last week that only 26 percent of the nation’s adults eat vegetables three or more times a day. Despite the increasing availability of pre-cut, pre-washed fruits and veggies on the one hand, and the proliferation of greenmarkets, heirloom vegetables, and urban farms on the other, our consumption of fruits and vegetables had barely budged since 2000.

The article itself offers a hint at one thing that may be preventing Americans from eating enough fruits and vegetables: lack of cooking skills. As one Greenpoint, Brooklyn resident commented to the Times, unhealthy eating is “just like any other bad habit. Part of it is just that vegetables are a little intimidating. I’m not afraid of zucchinis, but I just don’t know how to cook them.” Even a well-intentioned eater will let kohlrabi languish in their produce drawer if she doesn’t know how to cook it.

In the long term, researchers should try to identify the rate limiting steps that encourage us to skip the carrot soup in favor of the pasta or potato chip. In the short term, however, nonprofits and government should investigate whether cooking classes could help bridge the gap from grocery to table. Such efforts could range from simple solutions, like handing out recipes and performing cooking demonstrations at Greenmarkets, to re-examining home economics curriculums in high schools and middle schools.

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