The meaning of 'fruits' and 'vegetables'

Frances E. Thompson, Gordon B. Willis, Olivia M. Thompson, Amy L. Yaroch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective Fruit and vegetable consumption is a focus of research and nutrition education; yet, there is no universal agreement on the meaning of 'fruits- and 'vegetables'. Our objective was to describe survey respondent perceptions about a set of foods with regard to whether the food is a fruit, vegetable or something else.Design Three cross-sectional studies.Setting Two small studies involving cognitive interviewing sessions; and one large self-administered population survey.Subjects US adults in two small studies (n 55 and 80) and one large survey (n 3312), all with multiple race/ethnicities. Results Perceptions varied. In the survey, rice was considered a vegetable by about 20 % of respondents. In one small study, Spanish speakers were more likely to consider rice a vegetable, and Chinese speakers less likely, than were English speakers. Black beans were frequently classified as something other than vegetable or fruit. Among Hispanics, Spanish speakers were less likely than English speakers to consider beans a vegetable. Overall, tomatoes were classified as both fruit and vegetable, and these perceptions varied by race/ethnicity.Conclusions Substantial disagreement among the fruit, vegetable and other food domains highlights the importance of clearly defining the desired constructs. Foods that require specific instruction include rice, dried beans, potatoes, tomatoes and fruits and vegetables in mixtures and condiments. For measurement, additional questions or explanations may be needed to clarify which foods are of interest. For communication, the global message to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables should be reinforced with specific guidance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1222-1228
Number of pages7
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Volume14
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cognitive research
  • Dietary assessment
  • Dietary guidance
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Nutrition education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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    Thompson, F. E., Willis, G. B., Thompson, O. M., & Yaroch, A. L. (2011). The meaning of 'fruits' and 'vegetables'. Public Health Nutrition, 14(7), 1222-1228. https://doi.org/10.1017/S136898001000368X