States With the Best and Worst Diets

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Source: Samuel Grant / Wikimedia Commons

46. Arkansas
> Adults eating vegetables at least once a day: 71.9% (3rd lowest)
> Adults eating fruit at least once a day: 50.4% (5th lowest)
> Students who drink soda/pop at least once a day 29.3%
> Obesity rate: 34.5% (6th highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.2% (6th highest)

Only 71.9% of adults in Arkansas incorporate vegetables into their diet at least once daily, the third lowest share of all states and well below the national share of 77.9%. Only half of the state’s population consumes fruit on a daily basis, well below the nationwide figure of 59.8%.

Poor dietary habits appear to begin at a young age. Some 29.3% of high school students drink soda at least once a day, one of the larger shares in the nation and well above the national rate of 20.4%. Additionally, 47.9% of high school students in Arkansas fail to eat fruit and 45.5% fail to eat vegetables everyday, both of which top the national figures of 36.7% and 39.0%, respectively.

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47. South Carolina
> Adults eating vegetables at least once a day: 74.6% (10th lowest)
> Adults eating fruit at least once a day: 52.9% (7th lowest)
> Students who drink soda/pop at least once a day 26.7%
> Obesity rate: 31.7% (13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.3% (14th highest)

Fewer than 3 in every 4 adults in South Carolina eat vegetables every day, and only 52.9% eat fruit daily — each among the smallest shares of any state. Poor eating habits appear to start early in South Carolina. Over half of all high schoolers in the state do not eat fruit every day, and a similar share do not eat vegetables, each well above the comparable national rates.

A balanced diet can contribute to a long, healthy life. In South Carolina, however, 405 residents die prematurely before age 75 for every 100,000 people — well above the premature death rate nationwide of 333 per 100,000.

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48. Alabama
> Adults eating vegetables at least once a day: 72.2% (4th lowest)
> Adults eating fruit at least once a day: 51.7% (6th lowest)
> Students who drink soda/pop at least once a day 28.2%
> Obesity rate: 35.6% (2nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.1% (7th highest)

Alabama has the second highest adult obesity rate in the nation at more than one-third of the adult population. Eating a well-balanced diet is one of few factors that can help prevent obesity, but only 72.2% of adults in the state eat vegetables at least once a day, and 51.7% eat fruit at least once a day — both well below the respective national figures of 77.9% and 59.8%.

High obesity rates and lower consumption of fruits and vegetables may be due in part to a lack of access. In Alabama, an overwhelming 18.1% of households are food insecure, meaning they struggle to regularly afford a varied diet or any food at all, well above the 13.0% food insecurity rate nationwide.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock

49. Mississippi
> Adults eating vegetables at least once a day: 68.8% (the lowest)
> Adults eating fruit at least once a day: 48.8% (the lowest)
> Students who drink soda/pop at least once a day 29.4%
> Obesity rate: 35.6% (2nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 20.8% (the highest)

No state in the country is home to an adult population with poorer dietary habits than Mississippi. Only 68.8% of adults in the state eat vegetables daily, and only 48.8% consume fruit every day, each the smallest share of any state.

The poor dietary habits are partially attributable to a lack of access. On a per calorie basis, healthy food can be expensive, and more than 1 in 5 Mississippi residents live below the poverty line, the largest share of any state. Poor diets appear to be taking a toll on the population. An estimated 35.6% of adults in Mississippi are obese, the second highest obesity rate of any state.

Source: Anthony George / Flickr

50. Louisiana
> Adults eating vegetables at least once a day: 69.0% (2nd lowest)
> Adults eating fruit at least once a day: 49.6% (3rd lowest)
> Students who drink soda/pop at least once a day N/A
> Obesity rate: 36.2% (the highest)
> Poverty rate: 20.2% (2nd highest)

The state with the worst diet in the nation is Louisiana. Only 69.0% of adults report eating vegetables at least once daily, and some 49.6% report eating fruit at least once each day. Both shares are well below the national shares of 77.9% and 59.8%, respectively. Poor eating habits have likely contributed to the state’s nation-leading obesity rate of 36.2%.

Healthy food can be relatively expensive, and low incomes combined with a high poverty rate in Louisiana make it incredibly challenging for some residents to maintain a healthy diet. The state’s median household income of $45,146 a year is about $12,500 below the national median income of $57,617. Additionally, just over 1 in 5 state residents live in poverty, the second highest share nationwide.