Special Report

States With the Best and Worst Diets

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41. Georgia
> Adults eating vegetables at least once a day: 75.3% (14th lowest)
> Adults eating fruit at least once a day: 55.2% (10th lowest)
> Students who drink soda/pop at least once a day N/A
> Obesity rate: 30.7% (19th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.0% (10th highest)

All of the 10 lowest ranking states on this list are located in the South, and Georgia is one of them. Only 75.3% of adults in the state eat vegetables once a day, and 55.2% eat fruit daily — each a smaller share than the national averages.

Having a balanced diet can contribute to living an overall healthy life. Adults in Georgia also report feeling in poorer health than adults nationwide. Some 17.5% of adults in the state report being in fair or poor health — well above the national share of 15.0%.

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42. Tennessee
> Adults eating vegetables at least once a day: 77.4% (22nd lowest)
> Adults eating fruit at least once a day: 54.8% (9th lowest)
> Students who drink soda/pop at least once a day 29.0%
> Obesity rate: 33.8% (9th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.8% (11th highest)

Eating a well-balanced diet with ample servings of fruits and vegetables can result in better overall health. In Tennessee, 77.4% of adults eat vegetables daily and 54.8% eat fruit daily — below the respective national figures. Tennessee adults also report feeling in poorer health than adults nationwide. Nearly 1 in 4 adults in the state reports being in fair or poor health — well above the national share of 15.0%.

Relatively poor diets may be attributable to a lack of access. Lower income households may have greater difficulty affording a wide range healthy options related to diet, and Tennessee is a relatively poor state. The median household income in Tennessee of $48,547 a year is far lower than the national median income of $57,617.

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43. Oklahoma
> Adults eating vegetables at least once a day: 75.5% (16th lowest)
> Adults eating fruit at least once a day: 48.9% (2nd lowest)
> Students who drink soda/pop at least once a day 29.4%
> Obesity rate: 33.9% (8th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.3% (9th highest)

Low income households are less likely to be able to consistently afford healthy diets and are often forced by circumstance to opt for inexpensive, unhealthy, calorie-dense foods. In Oklahoma, 16.3% of the population lives below the poverty line — well above the 14.0% U.S. poverty rate.

The state’s high poverty rate may partially explain why Oklahoma is one of three states where fewer than half of all adults eat fruit on a daily basis. State residents of high school age are also less likely to eat fruits and vegetables regularly, and are more likely to drink soda on a daily basis than the typical American high schooler.

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44. Kentucky
> Adults eating vegetables at least once a day: 75.4% (15th lowest)
> Adults eating fruit at least once a day: 53.1% (8th lowest)
> Students who drink soda/pop at least once a day 32.4%
> Obesity rate: 34.6% (5th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.5% (4th highest)

About 13% of households nationwide are food insecure, meaning they struggle to afford varied diets or food in general at some point during the year. In Kentucky, the percentage is much greater at about 17.3% of households. The state’s high food insecurity rate may partially explain why relatively few adults in the state regularly report a balanced diet. Only 75.4% of state adults eat vegetables daily and only 53.1% consume fruit regularly, below the 77.9% and 59.8% share of adults nationwide.

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45. West Virginia
> Adults eating vegetables at least once a day: 73.5% (8th lowest)
> Adults eating fruit at least once a day: 50.1% (4th lowest)
> Students who drink soda/pop at least once a day 30.1%
> Obesity rate: 35.6% (2nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.9% (5th highest)

Low income households have fewer options related to healthy diets, and West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country. Some 17.9% of state residents live below the poverty line, a larger share than in all but four other states.

The large share of residents facing serious financial hardship partially explains why relatively few adults in the state spend money on fruits and vegetables — which, on a per calorie level, are far more expensive than other less healthy food options. Only 73.5% of adults in the state eat vegetables daily, and only 50.1% consume fruit — the eighth and fourth lowest shares of any state, respectively.