We all know that eating more fruits and veggies is a good thing. But that leaves one big question – how many servings are enough?
WHAT IS A SERVING?
Before we can even discuss how many servings we should eat, we need to talk about standard serving sizes. The easiest way to determine this is to look at the nutrition facts panel – it will list the standard serving size for your food.
But not every food comes with a nutrition label – including most fruits and vegetables! Generally, one serving of fruits and vegetables is ½ cup. Like raw leafy greens, some special cases are 1 cup per serving, and dried fruit is ¼ cup per serving. But you don't need to memorize those; you can always find serving size lists that will help.
WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE IN REAL FOOD?
Here are a few examples of a single standard serving for common foods:
- 5-8 florets of broccoli or cauliflower
- 1 medium carrot or 6 baby carrots
- ½ large sweet pepper
- 1 medium apple, pear, or orange
- 16 grapes
HOW MANY SERVINGS PER DAY?
For a typical adult, the recommendation is 5 servings of vegetables and 4 servings of fruit per day. We can also look at this in terms of those ½ cup servings. In that case, we should aim for 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day.
It should be noted that these numbers are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. If you eat more or less you'll need to scale the numbers (check out table 4-1 on page 96 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to have the scaling done for you).
CAN I SEE THAT IN REAL FOOD AGAIN?
Here's a sample day of eating that meets these recommendations:
- Breakfast: Yogurt with ½ cup raspberries
- Lunch: Tuna sandwich, 1 medium apple, and a salad with 1 cup spinach, ¼ cup dried cranberries, almonds, feta cheese, and salad dressing
- Snack: 16 grapes and 6 baby carrots
- Dinner: grilled chicken and brown rice with ½ cup sauteed peppers and 1 cup steamed broccoli
This includes four servings of fruit: raspberries, apple, dried cranberries, and grapes. It also includes five servings of vegetables: spinach, baby carrots, peppers, and broccoli (which is two servings here).
WHAT DOES YOUR PLATE LOOK LIKE?
Take a moment to consider how you eat. If you are not meeting these recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, maybe identify a couple of ways to add more. Start small and add one serving at a time. Practice making that a habit and then add more – you'll be eating healthier in no time!