Confused minds and palates

July 17, 2015

Results from a survey commissioned by SUBWAY Restaurants released in conjunction with National Eat Your Vegetables Day in June reveal a bit of confusion among respondents regarding the motives for their food choices.

According to the survey, 84 percent of the respondents do not consume the USDA minimum daily intake of fresh vegetables, which is the equivalent of two cups. A full 70 percent of the respondents said they knew that vegetables were good for them. Yet 47 percent said that nothing prevented them from eating vegetables.

Translation: They don’t eat their vegetables but they can’t tell you why.

I’m not sure exactly how the questions were asked in the survey. But the idea that “nothing” prevents people from eating vegetables doesn’t seem to align with reality. “Something” always prevents us from taking an action, whether it’s a compelling outside influence or our own choices, conscious or unconscious. The same is true when we speak of reasons to act. We’re always motivated by something. Parental coercion can motivate kids (“eat your vegetables or else no cake”) and we all are driven by self-interest in its many forms (including being so hungry that you’ll eat an item you normally wouldn’t touch).

The survey does delve into some of the reasons people don’t consume enough vegetables, including taste, price and convenience. Prep time, or the lack thereof, is a common objection, especially with men.

That’s where produce processing comes in to take its rightful place in stores, refrigerators and cupboards with fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a “both/and” benefit for consumers and stores and restaurants.

If I want to follow in the footsteps of my mother and grandmothers, who picked apart countless heads of lettuce by hand, I can do so. But that’s a choice I rarely make, despite its potential for relieving stress. Give me a bag of shredded lettuce instead. I’m eating lettuce either way.

Kale, that superstar of foods, can be found in salads across the country. But for those who still look with suspicion on a dark green leafy vegetable, kale also comes in the form of chips. Who knows? The chips could be a gateway to the actual fresh product. But either way, you’re eating kale.

Fresh and processed aren’t adversaries. They’re partners. In tandem, they can increase the consumption of vegetables and reduce the amount of confusion along the way.

Lee Dean, editorial director