Special Report

States With The Best and Worst Diets

41. West Virginia
> Pct. consuming vegetables at least once daily:
75.8% (19th lowest)
> Pct. consuming fruit at least once daily: 54.0% (7th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 35.1% (the highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.3% (7th highest)

Only in a few states do residents rank as having worse diets, on average, than in West Virginia. With an obesity rate of 35.1%, West Virginia is home to the highest share of obese adults of any state in the country. West Virginia has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, at 18.3%, compared to a national rate of 15.5%.

The state’s youth also appear to have poor dietary habits. Despite additional taxes on soda from both vending machines and stores, 38% of West Virginia high school students drink at least one soda each day, well above the 27% of 9th-12th graders nationally who do.

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42. Indiana
> Pct. consuming vegetables at least once daily:
73.1% (6th lowest)
> Pct. consuming fruit at least once daily: 56.4% (10th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 31.8% (9th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.2% (23rd highest)

When it comes to diet, Indiana residents are among the least healthy eaters in the country. The state has one of the lowest shares of adults eating fruit at least once per day, at 56.4%. Nationally, 61.5% of adults manage to eat fruit daily. Indiana also has one of the highest obesity rates in the country at 31.8% of adults compared to 28.3% of adults nationally, a likely consequence of the state residents’ poor eating habits. Unlike many of the least healthy states, where a large share of households cannot afford to eat regular healthy meals, Indiana residents enjoy relative food security. Only 11.7% of Indiana households struggle to afford healthy food, a smaller share than the national percentage of 14.3% of households.

43. Kentucky
> Pct. consuming vegetables at least once daily:
75.1% (13th lowest)
> Pct. consuming fruit at least once daily: 53.8% (5th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 33.2% (5th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.1% (5th highest)

Kentucky’s population has one of the worst diets, on average, in the country. The 53.8% share of adults who consume at least one serving of fruit a day is roughly eight percentage points below the national share of 61.5%. Likely as a result of the state residents’ poor eating habits, Kentucky has one of the highest obesity rates in the country at 33.2% of adults compared to 28.3% of adults nationally. States with higher poverty rates tend to also have higher shares of adults eating unhealthily. Kentucky has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, at 19.1%, compared to a national rate of 15.5%.

44. Tennessee
> Pct. consuming vegetables at least once daily:
75.7% (18th lowest)
> Pct. consuming fruit at least once daily: 55.2% (9th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 33.7% (4th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.3% (7th highest)

Only in a few states do residents rank as having worse diets, on average, than in Tennessee. This may be at least in part because state household meals are limited by their budgets. Tennessee’s poverty rate of 18.3% is one of the highest in the country and higher than the national rate of 15.5%. About 16% of households in Tennessee struggle to afford quality food. Food insecurity likely contributes to poor diets statewide. Only about 55% of adults eat at least one serving of fruit a day, a share far below the corresponding national average of 61.5%. Likely linked to state residents’ poor eating habits, Tennessee has one of the highest obesity rates in the country at 33.7% of adults compared to 28.3% of adults nationally. Only three states have a higher obesity rate than Tennessee.

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45. South Carolina
> Pct. consuming vegetables at least once daily:
73.2% (8th lowest)
> Pct. consuming fruit at least once daily: 54.8% (8th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 31.7% (10th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.0% (11th highest)

When it comes to diet, South Carolina residents are among the least healthy eaters in the country. Only 54.8% of all adults in the state eat fruit daily, while 61.5% manage to do so nationwide. A healthy diet is an important part of maintaining good health. Likely as a result of the state residents’ poor eating habits, South Carolina has one of the highest obesity rates in the country at 31.7% of adults compared to 28.3% of adults nationally. Poor diets also likely contributed to a higher rate of premature death in the state. About 8,281 years of potential life are lost each year due to premature death before age 75 for every 100,000 South Carolina residents, more years lost than in all but eight other states.

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