If I had to guess I would say you are probably not getting the recommended servings of vegetables and fruits each day, just like most other Americans. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that less than 9% of us are eating the 2 to 3 cups of Dietary Guideline recommended vegetables and not many more are eating enough fruit. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 1 ½ to 2 cups for adults per day, while the study found that just 13% of us consume that much.
Why is it so important to get more of those vegetables and fruits in our diet each day?
- While vegetables and fruits aren’t calorie free, most are low calorie.
- Vegetables and fruits are packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals. Look to those with deep colors (dark green, orange, purple, and red) for many of the highest amounts.
- Fruits and vegetables are often found to have properties that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and even cancer.
- The fiber found in vegetables and fruits can aid your digestion and may even help with weight loss. Examples of those with higher fiber include beans, pears, apples, berries, spinach, and broccoli.
- Vegetables and fruits contain little if any fat.
There is a perception that vegetables and fruits are more expensive than many other foods, but eating those that are in season will get rid of that myth. Consider too that a few more cents now may save you thousands of dollars in medical bills in the future.
A few ways to add another serving of vegetables or fruit (or more) each day:
- Shred or finely chop vegetables and add to meat loaf, pasta sauce, muffins, and more.
- Change your evening bowl of ice cream to a vegetable and fruit smoothie. Any fruit tastes great with a cup of milk or juice, a yogurt container, and a cup of ice. Toss in a little kale or spinach too.
- Add black or other beans to any pasta dish, taco meat, or even on top of a salad.
- Toss a few berries in your morning cereal or yogurt, and chopped veggies in your scrambled eggs.
- And don’t forget that fruit is the original fast food. Most of it can be eaten after a quick rinse.
To see if you are close to the recommended vegetable and fruit servings, use a tracking log on your phone, computer, or just a small tablet. Write down after each meal or snack how much you had, within a few days you should be able to see how far you have to go.
Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.
Reviewer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County.