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Americans still falling short of national nutritional guidelines

Eating more fruits and vegetables has been linked to decreased risk for such health problems as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Still, most adults in the United States don't eat enough plant-based foods, according to a pair of new studies.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis (.pdf) measuring compliance with federal dietary recommendations found the average overall American diet scored only about 60 out of 100 total points. The study examined data on 4,448 adults ages 20 and up from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004. According to a recent MedPage Today story, results showed:

Scores for dark green and orange vegetables and whole grains were particularly poor, reflecting insufficient intake, [Bethene Ervin, PhD, RD, wrote in a National Health Statistics Report], while those for sodium and calories from sugars and alcohol reflected excessive intakes.

Women's diets appeared healthier than men's, Ervin noted, as they had better scores on fruit, vegetable, and discretionary calorie intakes as well as slightly better overall diets.

The same held true for older patients, she reported, with adults age 60 and up having better scores regarding fruit, vegetable, and bad calorie intakes.

Better-educated Americans -- those with at least a high school education -- more closely complied with the recommendations than those who had less education, Ervin reported.

Similarly, a study from research firm The NPD Group on Americans' adherence to the government's revised healthy-eating guidelines illustrated by the MyPlate icon was equally disappointing. It seems that most individuals' plates fail to resemble the nutritionally balanced quadrants of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plate. The Huffington Post reports:

The Group looked at long-term data on American eating habits and found that most surveyed individuals came close to meeting the USDA's nutritional guidelines on only 2% of days in a year. That's about a week out of the year.

For those mulling over potential New Year's resolutions, perhaps making fruits and vegetables fill half your plate each meal would be a good addition to your list of 2012 goals.

Previously: More than three-quarters of Americans projected to be overweight, obese by 2020, Most Americans don't eat enough plant-based foods, Stanford nutritionist offers guidelines for eating healthy on the go and Goodbye, pyramid: USDA unveils MyPlate
Photo by Daniel Morrison

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