Monday, October 11, 2010

Sex and Carrots and Weight Management.

One of these just doesn’t belong.

I could have saved the Carrot Grower’s industry 25 million dollars. Yup, that’s how much they spent trying to sell you “baby” carrots. I say “baby” because they aren’t. First informed of this by Marion Nestle (on her blog, I learned what most of you might already know. They are full-grown adult carrots, peeled and cut into “baby” size pieces. And as my searching uncovered, they are a variety that tends to be both lower in Beta-carotene (which becomes vitamin A) and in flavor. And using sex to try to sell them (
I’m quite sure will be a giant waste of money.

I need to confess that this post is not based on scientific research or studies of eaters’ happiness when eating vegetables. The only research I’ll reference is the recent study by the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showing that vegetable consumption is down. Nationally, only 26% of adults consumed vegetables 3 or more times per day. And no state met the Healthy People 2010 Target for vegetable intake, having 50% of the population eating 3 or more servings per day (with at least one-third being dark green or orange vegetables).
And the prevalence of eating vegetables three or more times per day did not change significantly, over all age groups, in the last decade, in spite of all we know about the value of eating them.

And get this minor detail—“Participants were not given a definition of serving size” and were asked how often they ate a serving of vegetables. Hold on. Does this make any sense to you? The study was really based on how often, not how much people ate them. So if I were being surveyed about my vegetable intake here’s what they would find: No vegetables at breakfast. (Surprised? They hardly go with my pancakes or oatmeal). And I only occasionally have some small amount of vegetables on my sandwiches at lunch. So my number of servings? Only one per day. But you should see just how much vegetables I eat in that one serving! There’s always an enormous and quite tasty salad at dinner, as well as one or two cooked vegetables, in generous amounts. I’ll need to photograph to show you just how much I love my veggies, but trust me, this labeling of me as a low veggie consumer seems most ridiculous. So I’m not so sure there is really any value to this giant CDC undertaking to survey American’s food consumption.

Still, my twenty five years of speaking with clients of all ages, income and educational level have led me to a number of beliefs about why vegetable intake is lower than it should be. And what could be done about it.
Night vision, wound healing, gum health, even cancer prevention, all known benefits of eating vegetables, are hardly enough to motivate most of us to eat more veggies. Unless the cost of that change is small and there are additional benefits as well, Americans will not increase their veggies. But, the answer to getting people to eat more vegetables is to focus an ad campaign on this little fact:

Eating vegetables helps manage weight.

Really. How many wouldn’t push their intake of vegetables knowing that little secret? It seems that people go to all lengths for the sake of weight control—costly and useless supplements, diet pills, and restrictive eating that leaves us cranky and irritable. Imagine you could add something to your diet that not only helps you manage your weight, while feeling good, but prevents you from getting too hungry and feeling bad?! And, is quite good for you!

Here are just a few snippets from the articles referenced on the CDC site (

Adding vegetables to meals enhanced the feelings of being full; ratings of fullness were linked with foods higher in fiber and water content and total weight of the meal; dietary fiber (contained in vegetables), regardless of the source, has also been linked to weight regulation. And, low-energy-dense foods promoted feelings of being full, reduced hunger, and decreased energy intake. And in long and short term studies foods described as being “low-energy –density”, a term that most certainly applies to vegetables, promoted weight loss.

I’m not suggesting using them for weight loss if you are at a normal and healthy weight! And I don’t recommend a diet of only vegetables. I just wanted to clarify that small point. But, to include them to assist with feeling full and satisfied, as well as for their many other nutritional benefits, in addition to all the other foods you eat—that I recommend.

And now that we really see a benefit we could start to break down the barriers to eating veggies. Making change, including dietary change, seems to be about the cost benefit; if the cost of changing what you do seems too high you won’t do it. And the costs of eating vegetables aren’t simply measured in dollars. No, the costs include the time it takes to shop for them, the hassle of making them, learning how to prepare them, and sitting down to eat them. And, perhaps, the energy to convince the others at the table to try them.

Check out my next post on practical strategies to lower these costs so you can enjoy all the benefits, including helping you manage your weight in a healthy range! Coming soon, I promise!

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