There are numerous reasons we are encouraged to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits every day. Several of the more important include: they are fairly low in calories, reduce the risk of some chronic diseases, and they provide daily fiber. You often hear eat “5 a Day”, but what does that really mean? Does it mean we are to eat 5 portions of fruit and 5 portions of vegetables daily? How about four helpings of fruits and one helping of vegetables – is that right – will that work? Can we just eat 5 servings of the same vegetable and 5 servings of the same fruit all of the time?
So how many fruit and vegetables really are needed for each of us every day? The answer is…the amount you need to eat depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. Recommended are shown in the charts below – from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/. Note – these amounts are appropriate for individuals who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, beyond normal daily activities.
Children 2-3 years old 1 cup
4-8 years old 1 1/2 cups
Girls 9-13 years old 2 cups
Boys 9-13 years old 2 1/2 cups
Girls or Women 14-50 years old 2 1/2 cups
51+ years old 2 cups
Boys or Men 14-50 years old 3 cups
51+ years old 2 1/2 cups
Children 2-3 years old 1 cup
4-8 year olds 1 to 1 1/2 cups
Girls 9-18 years old 1 1/2 cups
Boys 9-13 years old 1 1/2 cups
14-18 years old 2 cups
Women 19-30 years old 2 cups
31-50 years old 1 1/2 cups
51+ years old 1 cup
Men 19+ years old 2 cups
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages us to eat more nutrient-rich foods. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables every day – versus five servings of one fruit and five servings of one vegetable – provides you with different nutrients. This is where the “make your plate a rainbow” comes in or “Think variety. Think color”.
So again…how many servings should we eat a day? For the men out there at least 2 ½ cups of veggies along with 2 cups of fruit a day. For women…at least have 2 cups of fruits and 2 cups of veggies a day. Does this equal out to five servings a day for men, women, boys, and girls? In the big picture of getting the nutrients we need and always wanting things to be simplified – yes it does.
If you struggle to include a variety of vegetables and fruits in your diet try:
- Eating your dip with veggies instead of chips
- Pre-packaging fruits or veggies in serving size bags for convenience
- Adding vegetables to your scrambled egg
- Including fruit in your cereal or smoothie
What is your favorite way to sneak in veggies or fruits?
Writer: Candace J. Heer, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Morrow County, Heart of Ohio EERA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County, Ohio Valley EERA, email@example.com