Am I Eating Enough Fruits & Vegetables?


How many servings of fruit a day are recommended?

What about servings of vegetables a day?


Although many of us eat a piece of fruit each day, is this enough to meet our daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables?

You may be surprised to learn that the majority of Americans do NOT meet their recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day. While only a combined total of 5 fruits and vegetable servings a day are recommended for healthy adolescents and adults, many people find this hard to accomplish.

2 servings of fruit a day

+ 3 servings of veggies a day

5 servings of fruits & vegetables a day (1,2)


Why is it so hard to eat 5 a day? Well let's have a look at what 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables look like.

A serving is generally equivalent to 1 cup.

  • Generally, a whole fruit like an apple or orange is considered 1 cup. Similarly, a medium carrot or 1 large bell pepper is a serving, or 1 cup of vegetables. (1,2)


  • Berries and grapes or broccoli florets and cooked spinach can be measured out in a dry 1 cup measuring cup. (1,2)


  • Dried fruit lacks the water and is doubled in nutrition, so you only need a 1/2 cup of dried fruit to equate to a normal cup of hydrated fruit. (1)


  • The exact opposite is true of iceberg lettuce- it's full of water and you would need 2 cups of lettuce to equate to a single serving of vegetables. (2)


For those who aren't used to eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, incorporating them into your diet may seem difficult. But it doesn't have to be.

With these serving sizes in mind, you may need to plan your meals and snacks throughout the day to ensure you get at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Here are a couple of examples to help:

Example Meal Plan #1:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with a cup of berries

Snack: 1 apple

Lunch: Turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onion and side of 6 baby carrots

Snack: Smoothie with 2 cups raw spinach or 1 banana

Dinner: Vegetable stir-fry with 1/2 green pepper, 1/4 onion, and 1/4 cup broccoli


Example Meal Plan #2:

Breakfast: Omelette with 1 cup cooked spinach and 1/2 cup salsa

Snack: 1 large orange

Lunch: Slice of veggie pizza with 1/2 cup of broccoli

Snack: 1 cup strawberries

Dinner: Chicken noodle soup with 1/2 cup carrots, 1/4 cup celery, 1/4 cup onions


Example Meal Plan #3

Breakfast: Smoothie with 1 orange, 1 medium carrot (or 12 baby carrots), whey or hemp protein powder, and yogurt or milk

Snack: 1 Protein bite made with 1/4 cup dates (dried fruit)

Lunch: Quesadilla with 1 cup cooked spinach and half cup tomatoes or peppers

Dinner: Chicken wings, blue cheese, 6 celery sticks, and 1/2 salad

Snack: 1 Protein bite made with 1/4 cup dates (dried fruit)


If these don't look like your typical meal plans, you may want to consider other creative ways of getting in fruits and vegetables that can hide their original taste and texture, such as:

  • baked goods (zucchini bread, carrot cake, black bean brownies)

  • vegetable dips (baba ganoush, guacamole, hummus)

  • pureeing them into casseroles (spinach lasagna, cauliflower mac & cheese, mushroom enchiladas)


Don't like vegetables? Try them again. Our tastes change over time and foods we disliked as a child or teenager, may now be enjoyable. Experts recommend re-trying foods about 20 times before writing them off for good.


Also, consider the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables that aren't your favorite, but may be tolerable to get the phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables should make up the bulk of our carbohydrates, balanced with whole grains.

Important to note is that the 5 serving rule is for healthy adults. People who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure are usually recommended to double the serving recommendation. An often prescribed diet for hypertension is the DASH Diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. That means eating 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day each. (3)

If you're blood pressure is fine, the DASH Diet prescription for 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day puts 5 servings a day into perspective!


If you need help adding fruits and vegetables to your diet or building your healthy plate, schedule a virtual or in-person appointment online with a Dietitian at ZEST Nutrition. Rates are affordable and available on a sliding scale.

Ready to give it a try?

For specific fruit serving sizes, click here.

Vegetable serving sizes can be found here.

References:

(1) USDA. (2018). All about the vegetable group. ChooseMyPlate.gov. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruit

(2) USDA. (2018). All about the vegetable group. ChooseMyPlate.gov. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables

(3) The Mayo Clinic. DASH Diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure. Nutrition and Healthy Eating. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

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