Am I Eating Enough Fruits & Vegetables?


How many servings of fruit a day are recommended?

What about servings of vegetables a day?

A handful of blueberries, or 1 cup, is 1 serving of fruit.

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 five 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)


3 servings of vegetables a day are recommended for healthy adults and teens.

Why is it so hard to eat 5 a day? Well let's have a look at what five 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)


1 medium carrot is 1 serving of vegetables
One carrot = 1 vegetable serving

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


1 cup of berries is 1 serving of fruit
1 cup of berries = 1 serving of fruit

  • 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)


1/2 cup of dried fruit is 1 serving of fruit.
1/2 cup of dried fruit = 1 serving of fruit

  • 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)


2 cups of lettuce equal 1 serving of vegetables due to the high water content.
2 cups of lettuce = 1 serving of vegetables

For those who aren't used to eating five 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 five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Here are a couple of examples to help:

Example Meal Plan #1:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with 1 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


Add lettuce, tomato and onion to a sandwich for extra veggie servings
Add lettuce, tomato and onion to a sandwich for extra veggie servings

Example Meal Plan #2:

Breakfast: Omelet 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 on it

Snack: 1 cup strawberries

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


Add veggies to chicken noodle soup to get your vegetable servings for the day.
Add veggies to chicken noodle soup to get your vegetable servings for the day.

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 1/2 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)


Fruit and spinach smoothies are a great way to get your servings of fruits and vegetables.
Fruit and spinach smoothies are a great way to get your servings of fruits and vegetables.

Creative Ways to Eat More Vegetables

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, banana bread)

  • vegetable dips (baba ganoush, guacamole, hummus, tzatziki)

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


Dips made like baba ghanoush, guacamole, and hummus can hide the taste of vegetables.

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.

Eat Veggies For Health, Eat Other Foods for Pleasure

This salad in a jar offers multiple servings of vegetables and whole grains.
The majority of our carbs should come from fruits and vegetables, and then whole grains.

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!

The DASH Diet includes 10 servings of fruits and vegetables for people with hypertension.
The DASH Diet includes 10 servings of fruits and vegetables for people with hypertension.

If you need help adding fruits and vegetables to your diet or building your healthy plate, schedule a virtual appointment online with a Dietitian at ZEST Nutrition.

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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