If there is one thing that all nutrition experts agree on, it’s that everyone should eat more vegetables and fruit. Yet most North Americans don’t have any idea how much they should be consuming. It comes as no surprise then that a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that only 1 in 10 Americans meets the daily recommendations for fruits and vegetables. On average, Americans tend to eat one serving of fruit and less than two servings of vegetables per day. With the intake of fruits and vegetables linked to decreased rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, we need to do better.
What’s a Daily Recommended Serving?
Fruit and vegetable servings are determined based on the number of calories someone needs. In general, for someone who needs 2000 calories per day, the goal is 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables. This will be slightly variable as some people need more than 2000 calories and some people need less. To find out how many servings per day you need, check out the USDA supertracker website.
How to Calculate Fruit and Vegetable Servings
For the most part, a cup means a cup. Measure out a cup of cucumber or a cup of pineapple chunks and there you have it. There are a few exceptions, though.
- Dried fruit – cut the amount in half. A half-cup of dried fruit is equal to one cup of fresh fruit.
- Fruit juice – while a cup of fruit juice technically counts as a serving of fruit, you’re much better off eating a piece of fresh fruit. You’ll get less sugar and more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Whole fruit – in general, one medium to large whole fruit (i.e. apples, oranges, pears, nectarines) is equal to one cup of fruit.
- Raw leafy greens – when dealing with salad greens, a cup is not a cup. Two cups of raw leafy greens are equal to one cup of vegetables.
A Week’s Worth of Fruits and Veggies
While five and a half cups of produce per day may sound like a lot, it isn’t as much as you may think. To help you get a handle on what exactly is recommended here is a week’s worth of ways to hit your produce goal.
1 cup of blueberries + 1 medium apple + 2 cups of salad greens topped with ½ cup each mushrooms, bell peppers, and cucumbers
Tip: Pair a fresh apple with cheese. For an easy snack or even a grab and go breakfast, toss an apple and a cheddar cheese stick in your bag on your way out the door. You’ll get a combination of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and fat to keep you full for hours.
1 cup grapes + 8 large strawberries + 1 bell pepper + 1 cup string beans + 1 stalk of celery.
Tip: Make a fresh fruit salad, combining a few different varieties of fruit. Try grapes, strawberries, and diced apples, or blueberries, pineapple and melon. Prep it at the beginning of the week to make it easy to take a cup or two when you need a snack.
¼ cup dried cherries + 1 orange + 1 cup broccoli + 1 cup sugar snap peas + ½ cup cherry tomatoes.
Tip: Bulk up soups with vegetables. Canned soups typically are lacking in the veggie department, often providing only ¼ to ½ of a serving of vegetables. Bump up the nutrition by adding a cup of steamed broccoli or carrots, and you’ll get a full serving of vegetables with your meal. Or make your own vegetable-based soup, like this simple beet soup.
1 medium banana + 1 pear + ½ cup baby carrots (6) + 1 cup sauteed kale + 1 cup zucchini.
Tip: Pair raw vegetables with dips. Try carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, celery or broccoli. Serve as an afternoon snack with a high-protein bean dip, hummus, or guacamole.
1 cup roasted asparagus + 1 peach + ½ cup raspberries + ½ cup applesauce + 2 cups salad greens with ½ cup cucumber slices.
Tip: Add veggies to your eggs. Cooking up an omelet or egg scramble? Toss a cup of cooked vegetables or two cups of raw leafy greens and you’ll get a serving of veggies first thing in the morning.
Two Medjool dates stuffed with peanut butter + 1 cup melon + 1 cup sauteed peppers and onions + 1 cup diced eggplant + ½ cup raw cauliflower.
Tip: Mix steamed frozen vegetables into take-out food. Typical food delivery is loaded with calories, fat, and sodium. But that doesn’t mean you have to skip it all together. Instead, enjoy ⅓ to ½ of your take-out entree and add one or two cups of frozen steamed veggies on the side. This will fill you up without having to eat the entire entree. Bonus: more leftovers for tomorrow’s dinner!
2 cups raw spinach + ½ cup mango + 2 Medjool dates + 1 medium banana + ½ cup cucumber + 1 cup cherry tomatoes.
Tip: Blend vegetables and fruit into a smoothie and easily get in three servings of produce in one glass. Try 2 cups of raw spinach with ½ cup mango, 2 medjool dates, 1 medium banana and ½ cup of cucumber slices. This combination provides two servings of fruit and one and a half servings of vegetables.
1 cup watermelon + 2 clementines + 1 cup roasted Brussel sprouts + 1 cup roasted cauliflower + 1 stalk of celery.
Tip: Snack on fresh or dried fruit. Fruit travels well, providing the perfect snack. Toss a piece of fresh fruit or ¼ cup of dried fruit in your bag when you are heading out and you’ll have no need to hit the vending machine come 2 pm.
For more ideas on how to sneak more fruits and vegetables into your day, check out this post.
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